Since we’ve been talking so much about Mormon art lately–particularly literature, but also in our liturgy and environment, and in our films–I thought it was time to drop the other shoe, set aside issues of aesthetics and ethics for the moment, and do what every likes best: make lists.
My wife is a voracious reader of fiction. (I once was, and I hope someday to be so again, but graduate school knocked that out of me, and I probably won’t have the time to recultivate that skill until I’m safely tucked away on some tenure-track somewhere. For now, I’m more a movie guy.) She’s always on the lookout for good books, and will take recommendations from anyone. She (and I) have read very little Mormon literature in recent years, however; it’s not like were anywhere near the epicenter of Mormon art, and so she (and I) are probably missing some good–or at least pretty good–stuff. When we lived in Utah, we were both much closer to the Mormon arts/intellectual scene, and were able to stay on top of things. But now, we’re dependent on word of mouth. So, if you have any preferences, likes or dislikes, why not use this thread to discuss them. My wife and I thank you.
Get things rolling, some provocative, perhaps ill-informed judgments:
1) I’ve never read a word of Gerald Lund’s The Work and the Glory. However, I am prejudiced against it, on the basis of two admittedly weak reasons: a) people whose artistic judgment I seriously question have told me that it’s wonderful reading; b) because the success of that series has spawned numerous imitators, about which we receive Deseret Book advertisements all the time, which I find annoying.
2) Orson Scott Card isn’t as good as he used to be. His 70s and 80s short fiction was some of the best I’ve ever read; over the last decade or two, however, he’s turned philosophical, pedantic and moralistic. (This I should, note, is an extremely ill-informed judgment, begging for critique: I haven’t read a Card novel since “Enchantment,” which I thought dragged.)
3) The very idea of a Mormon romance genre makes me ill.
4) Richard Dutcher’s second film, Brigham City, was not only far superior to God’s Army, but was a fine thriller and powerful psychological study on its own terms. There are numerous big-time, critically-acclaimed directors of serious films who have produced work that lacked the moral coherence and tautness of that movie. The fact that the Mormon audience did not respond well, thus sending Dutcher’s fortunes into a (I hope temporary) tailspin is a tragedy.
5) Melissa’s wants to know: good grief people, we’re a family-oriented church–where’s all the Mormon children’s and youth literature? The Deseret Books catelogues have picture books for 2-year-olds, and then they jump up to off-to-college/Jack-Weyland/dating-guide-type stuff. Is no one writing for adoloscents? (Melissa, by the way, is convinced that this is where the very best fiction writing is being done today.)
Have at it.