In this Dialogue podcast Don Bradley discusses "The 116 Lost Pages Re-Discovering the Book of Lehi." From the Miller Eccles website
From an early age, Don Bradley has been intrigued with Mormon history. As an 11 year-old, he visited the Hill Cumorah with his parents and went looking for his own set of sacred records. While his search was unsuccessful, it did inspire a life-long enthusiasm for the history of the Church. After being admitted to the graduate program at Utah State University, Don started researching the little-studied aspect of Mormon history, the 116 pages of the Book of Mormon text lost by Martin Harris. Don believes the actual number of lost pages may be greater than 116.
Lost in Translation
Adam S. Miller. The Sun Has Burned My Skin: A Modest Paraphrase of Solomon’s Song of Songs. Salt Lake City: BCC Press, 2017. 68 pp. Paper: $7.95.
Reviewed by Robert A. Rees. Dialogue, Summer 2018.
In my review of Adam Miller’s wonderfully imaginative and provocative book of criticism, Rube Goldberg Machines: Essays in Mormon Theology (2012), I stated: “At times, Miller seems as much poet as theologian. Essay after essay does what Robert Frost says poetry is supposed to do: ‘begin in delight and end in wisdom,’ although at times Miller’s essays begin in wisdom and end in delight. In reality, Miller’s writing is often theology as poetry.”1
Miller’s newest rewriting and reconfiguring of a sacred text (albeit one not universally regarded as scripture) causes me to slightly alter that assessment: “Miller’s writing is sometimes poetry as poetry.” In other words, his riff (“a rapid energetic often improvised verbal outpouring”2) on Solomon’s Canticle or Song of Songs owes as much to his poetic as to his critical skills. Like Miller’s midrashim on Romans and Ecclesiastes (respectively, Grace is Not God’s Backup Plan and Nothing New Under the Sun), The Sun Has Burned My Skin both renews and expands our understanding of the text.
“Twisted Apples”: Lance Larsen Takes on Prose Poetry
Lance Larsen. What the Body Knows. Tampa, Fla.: University of Tampa Press, 2018. 83 pp. Hardback: $25.00.
Reviewed by Darlene Young, Dialogue, Summer 2018
What makes something a poem? How do you recognize one, even if it has no broken lines? For most of us who read and love poetry, the answer is, “I just know.” There is the buzz of new vision from a surprising metaphor or imaginative framing, the sensual delight of rhythm and rhyme. But even more, there is the feeling. A good poem sends sparks through our synapses, makes us feel more alive. “I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off,” says Emily Dickinson. It’s visceral.
It seems appropriate, then, that poet Lance Larsen has titled his latest (fifth) collection, which consists entirely of prose poetry, What the Body Knows. What the reader “knows” after experiencing this collection is what poetry feels like, even when it’s in paragraph form. Because Larsen, former Poet Laureate of Utah and winner of the Pushcart Prize (among others), is a master of poetic language—sound, imagination, image, and metaphor.
Traveling “the undiscovered country”
Stephen Carter, ed. Moth and Rust: Mormon Encounters with Death. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2017. 257 pp. Paper: $23.95.
Reviewed by Susan Elizabeth Howe. Dialogue, Summer 2018
Death comes into our lives all too often; we don’t seek it out. As much as possible, we focus on essential, everyday concerns and keep death in the distance, at the edge of the horizon. Consequently, it is something of an anomaly to find a book of essays, poetry, fiction, drama, and art whose organizing subject is death. Asked to review Moth and Rust, I opened it with trepidation, not particularly eager for such a long and intense engagement with, as Shakespeare calls it, “The undiscovered country from whose bourn / No traveller returns” (Hamlet 3.1.80–1). But this collection has been an altogether satisfying and thought-provoking read. It is original and extremely well-written, and the authors’ musings about and personal experiences with death have left me with much to consider.
As I began to read, I immediately noticed that each of the forty-six authors is intelligent and talented and has an extensive publishing record. These writers care about words and use them well, the evocative and mellifluous title Moth and Rust being the first example of such care. The excellence of both the prose and the poetry is one of the greatest pleasures the book offers. Flannery O’Connor said that in a literary work of art, the method of presenting the work (the language with which it is written and how that language is arranged) is an aspect of the art and can’t be separated from it; it is impossible to summarize what a piece says, because the very way of conveying the story or ideas is an inseparable aspect of how and what the work means. The individual pieces in this collection function in that way, offering more than a reader can comprehend in a single reading. Furthermore, I can describe them only incompletely; there is so much more to be gained by reading them one by one.
Stephen Carter, ed. Moth and Rust: Mormon Encounters with Death. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2017. 257 pp. Paper: $23.95.
Reviewed by Cristina Rosetti. Dialogue, Summer 2018
Death is one of the great anxieties and mysteries that permeate human existence. Through various art forms, and across different contexts, people have sought to alleviate the sorrow and grief that stem from death. Moth and Rust: Mormon Encounters with Death is one such piece of art. In the opening pages of his introduction, editor Stephen Carter indicates that this text is not a “how-to guide to help you overcome grief” (xi). Rather, it is “a sharing of raw emotion that may only add to your anxiety, but will remind you that you are not alone” (xi). The volume, comprised of a compilation of essays by authors such Devery Anderson, Steven L. Peck, Boyd J. Petersen, John Hatch, Lisa Torcasso Downing, Phyllis Barber, and Eugene England, lives up to this promise.
A Life Worth Living
George B. Handley. Learning to Like Life: A Tribute to Lowell Bennion
. Self-Published, CreateSpace, 2017. 122 pp. Paper: $12.99.
Reviewed by Zach Hutchins. Dialogue
, Summer 2018
The highest achievement for a volume of Festschrift
is to prompt readers to revisit the life and teachings of that individual in whose honor it has been composed and move them to act in furtherance of the honoree’s legacy. Handley’s slim collection of essays, whose proceeds benefit the Birch Creek Service Ranch inspired by Lowell Bennion’s ranch in the Teton Valley, accomplishes both tasks. Before I began reading this book, I knew of Bennion only anecdotally, as an author of lesson manuals for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But as I read Learning to Like Life
, I found myself searching bookstores for copies of Bennion’s books and printing off Birch Creek application forms. Handley’s essays capture the worldview of a man whose life and teachings were radical with respect to twentieth-century values in precisely the same way that New Testament Christians were considered radicals by their contemporaries.
Handley begins the book with an anecdote that sets the tone for his meditations on the life and legacy of Lowell Bennion. Describing Bennion’s death in 1996, Handley recalls that
President Gordon B. Hinckley, the President of the LDS church at the time and [Bennion’s] former neighbor, commented at his funeral that he had seen a lot of cars in the church parking lot that day that Lowell Bennion would have never driven. . . . [Bennion] was not afraid to suggest that people ought not to own homes and cars that were too big and too expensive because he knew how much these things distract us from our deeper purposes. (9)
Helping Us Think and Be in the World
Linda Sillitoe. Owning the Moon. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2017. 200 pp. Paper: $22.95.
Reviewed by Lisa Bickmore, Dialogue, Summer 2018
In 2016, the poet Solmaz Sharif said, “More and more, I am becoming convinced that poetry is not a form of writing, but a form of reading. And a form of thinking and being in the world.”
I recalled this remark as I was reading Owning the Moon, the book of poems by Linda Sillitoe, published posthumously by Signature Books. I’m struck by the aptness of the remark for Linda’s last poems, which are both a great gift to us, now several years after her too-soon passing, and a reminder of what we lost in her. While these poems must have been written over the course of many years, they seem aware of their own lateness—of what has been lived and then lost, of what has been taken, and what has been relinquished. It is awash in memory, beautifully reconstituted, animated, revived. This is one of the things, I think, that Sharif means when she says that poetry is “a form of reading”—that is, it holds the text of the world and inspects it closely. Poetry can also give form to the ways we think and are in the world, and Sillitoe’s book is engaged in this life-altering work.
Todd Robert Petersen’s It Needs to Look Like We Tried is an intentionally unpleasant book. It has unlikeable central characters, an almost claustrophobic narrative style, and a plot that veers from unhappy narrator to unhappy narrator, all of which serve to hammer away at the book’s core theme: how easy it is for people to prioritize appearance over substance, causing irreparable harm to themselves and to everyone else who crosses their way.
Of course, this is by no means a unique insight, and when it comes to lampooning human self-deception, hypocrisy and pretension, It Needs to Look Like We Tried treads ground explored by classics such as The Clouds(Aristophanes), Twelfth Night (Shakespeare), Tartuffe (Molière) and Catcher in the Rye (Salinger). Of course, a contemporary novel is not necessarily expected to stand equal to work that’s been beloved for centuries, but it would be nice if It Needs to Look Like We Tried offered something original or engaged with its well-worn theme in a way that added to the conversation.
2018 EUGENE ENGLAND MEMORIAL PERSONAL ESSAY CONTEST Due date is January 31, 2019! In the spirit of Gene’s writings, entries should relate to Latter-day Saint experience, theology, or worldview. Essays will be judged by noted Mormon authors and professors of literature. Winners will be notified by email and announced in our Winter issue and on ...
Envisioning Mormon Art
Laura Allred Hurtado. Immediate Present. New York: Mormon Arts Center, 2017. 132 pp. Paper.
Reviewed by Sarah C. Reed. Dialogue, Summer 2018
Last summer, the Church History Museum was busy preparing to send art from Salt Lake City to New York City. The backstory of this move was the foundation of the Mormon Arts Center. This nonprofit is the brainchild of historian Richard Bushman and author Glen Nelson, trying to fill a gap in what they saw in Mormon arts and arts scholarship. Nelson, in a post on By Common Consent, bemoans that Mormons don’t know their own art and that Mormon artists and “the individual components of Mormon culture are in place, but they are like islands needing some serious bridge-building.”1 The Mormon Arts Center seeks to bring Mormon art to new audiences and to bring Mormon artists together. On their website they explain their threefold mission: “to display and perform Mormon art in New York City and elsewhere; to publish scholarship and criticism about Mormon art to reach a wider public; and to establish a comprehensive archive of Mormon Arts, 1830 to the present.”2
One result of these efforts was the first of a projected annual Mormon Arts Center Festival June 29–July 1, 2017 in the Riverside Church in New York City. In addition to music and spoken word, a significant portion of the festival was an art exhibition of Mormon artists curated by Laura Allred Hurtado, the Global Acquisitions Curator of the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City.
The Gift of Language
Heidi Naylor. Revolver. Salt Lake City: BCC Press, 2018. 190 pp.
Reviewed by Michael Andrew Ellis, Dialogue, Summer 2018
The stories in Heidi Naylor’s short story collection Revolver present characters who have experienced regret, grief, loss, and even death. As readers, we have the opportunity to peer into the abyss of their lives, while still garnering from the experience some little hope to carry on. Sounds grim, perhaps, but literature allows us to experience vicariously the circumstances, situations, and tragedies we would rather avoid in our own lives, perhaps with the hope that we might learn therefrom. To walk in another’s shoes. Naylor’s stories don’t “preach,” rather, they present life as it is, refusing to offer easy answers or comforting reassurances that “all is well” within Zion or without. In short, they present life in all its ugliness, beauty, and irony. The language is fresh, and the images exquisite. The collection is almost equal parts Mormon-themed and not, but the Mormon-themed stories have a universality to them that broaden their appeal beyond a Mormon literary audience. I will highlight a few of the best stories.
Nothing by Itself
George B. Handley. American Fork. Alresford, UK: Roundfire Books, 2017. 400 pp.
Reviewed by Sheldon Lawrence, Dialogue, Summer 2018
It’s difficult to know where to start in discussing a novel as thoughtful as American Fork. Politics, religion, belonging, family history, ecology, sense of place, the high costs of love and our dogged willingness to pay that price over and over again—these themes are not just touched upon but probed with sensitivity and skill. Perhaps the reason for this daring breadth of concerns is found in the mantra of Zacharias Harker, an ill-tempered retired botanist and lapsed Mormon: “Nothing exists by itself and nothing exists without context” (13). For Mr. Harker, as he is known throughout the novel, it is folly of the worst kind to try to understand a plant species, or even an ecosystem, removed from its larger context. Instead, a plant is one component of a complex system of relationships and histories. If this is true of plants, then how much more so is it for human beings and their individual stories? While American Fork takes as its subject the friendship of Mr. Harker and Alba, a BYU student and talented painter of Chilean descent, the novel reveals an intricate ecosystem of interrelated stories set in the mountains of Utah and Chile. Only in understanding these stories—the context of each of their lives—do the characters see one another, and themselves, in truth and compassion.
Horror Becomes Banal Under Scrutiny but Loss Is Lasting in The Apocalypse of Morgan Turner
Jennifer Quist. The Apocalypse of Morgan Turner. Berkeley, Calif.: Linda Leith Publishing, 2018. 300pp.
Reviewed by Rachel Helps, Dialogue, Summer 2018.
Although courtroom dramas can be entertaining, providing a formula for introducing new information through surprise witnesses or new evidence, simple procedurals can grow tired. An antidote is a realistic courtroom novel, where inner change and contemplation outshine lawyerly details. Jennifer Quist’s The Apocalypse of Morgan Turner is a short but carefully crafted literary novel that gives readers a view into the impact continual court appearances can have on a victim’s family. Characters in the book contemplate the origin of evil and mental illness, as well as friendship and self-expression.
The central character is Morgan Turner, whose sister Tricia has been murdered by her boyfriend. The Canadian government has appointed Joshua Lund as the prosecuting attorney. Through Joshua, she meets his sister Gillian, a graduate student in literature, and their mentally ill brother Paul, all former Mormon missionaries.
Expertly Built: Stories within Stories
Tim Wirkus. The Infinite Future. New York: Penguin Press, 2018. 400 pp. Hardcover.
Reviewed by Gabriel González N.
Okay, I’m going to let the cat out of the bag, so if you don’t want the single, major twist of this novel spoiled, please walk away now.
For those of you still here, my review:
About two thirds of the way into Tim Wirkus’s The Infinite Future, the readers are informed that the career of one Eduard Salgado-MacKenzie, supposedly the author of a number of outlandish short stories and a mediocre, drug-induced novel, was a hoax. The story of Salgado-MacKenzie’s admittedly modest rise is satirical, a not-so-subtle criticism of literary and art critics. It is, perhaps, a warning against taking The Infinite Future seriously. So, at the risk of doing the very thing the book mocks, I’ll provide a (foolish?) review.
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