Claire Åkebrand, The Field is White
. KERNPUNKT Press, 2017
Reviewed by Laura Stott
An emptied bookshelf sags with the ghosts of its books. When I leave this earth, will my feet still creek across this floor, my body still make a dent in this mattress, my face still ripple across the mirror? (p. 254)
The Field is White
, a novel by Claire Åkebrand, reads like poetry and feels, in the mind’s eye, like something out of an old movie. But it’s a story that’s never been told, set in the whiteness of a snow storm that doesn’t want to end.
In this Dialogue podcast William MacKinnon and Richard E. Turley discuss insights from their research on the Utah War and the Mountain Meadows Massacre. From the Miller Eccles website:
Rick Turley was formerly Assistant Church Historian and is currently managing director of the Public Affairs Department of the Church. Bill MacKinnon is an independent, award winning historian of the American West, who was recently president of the Mormon History Association.
THE TOPIC: Over the decades, Richard Turley and William MacKinnon have researched and written extensively about Utah’s long, contentious territorial period. They approach the subject from quite different religious, educational, military, professional, geographical, and even generational backgrounds. Despite (or perhaps because of) such differences, these two historians are close personal friends and respectful colleagues, whose work has been enriched by the informal and stimulating exchange of discoveries and ideas over more than twenty years. Rick and Bill have often shared a platform to discuss their findings and to learn from audiences in such varied settings as the LDS stake center in Norman, Oklahoma and annual conferences of the Mormon History Association in many parts of the country.
In this Dialogue podcast Michael Quinn discusses findings from his new book The Mormon Hierarchy: Wealth and Corporate Power. From the Miller Eccles website:
"The first two volumes of Dr. Quinn’s best-selling Mormon Hierarchy series were titled Origins of Power (1994) and Extensions of Power (1997). Now, after 20 years, the long-anticipated third volume of the trilogy, Wealth & Corporate Power, has arrived. Always an entertaining and well-informed speaker, Dr. Quinn’s presentation promises to be one you won’t want to miss.
Problem Plays that Cultivate Compassion
Melissa Leilani Larson. Third Wheel: Peculiar Stories of Mormon Women in Love. Salt Lake City: BCC Press, 2017. 142 pp.
Reviewed by Julie Bowman. Published in Dialogue, Fall 2017 (50:3)
Third Wheel: Peculiar Stories of Mormon Women in Love brings together two plays by award-winning playwright Melissa Leilani Larson: Happy Little Secrets and Pilot Program. The plays are presented chronologically by premier year. Happy Little Secrets premiered at the New Play Project in 2009, Pilot Program at Plan-B Theatre Company in 2015. Each won the Association for Mormon Letters award for Drama.
The book’s deceptively bright cover, illustrated with a young girl in a solo game of hoop rolling, belies the complexities and maturity of the plays in this compact edition. With hoop rolling as a metaphor for keeping things going, we may take Third Wheel’s cover as cautionary. The plays are thought problems that take us in a bit of a circle. The endings endorse a quiet kind of endurance. There’s nothing wrong with endurance, but it can be frustrating if one wants a conclusion that arrives at a point of view on either of the highly-charged issues that comprise the plays’ central conflicts: same-sex attraction and polygamy.
Anything but Orthodox
Matthew James Babcock. Heterodoxologies: Essays. Butte, Mont.: Educe Press, 2017. 204 pp.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Tidwell. Published in Dialogue, Fall 2017 (50:3)
I was nineteen years old when I first learned about the essay form. I was enrolled in an introductory survey of creative writing, sitting in a middle row of pocked and drab desks in a windowless classroom when the instructor drew a daisy on the board to illustrate the fragility of the essay form—how distinct petals of thought all encircle and emerge from the central theme and become something more beautiful in juxtaposition and conversation. That moment was a lightning bolt moment for me: This is how my brain works! And so I became an essayist.
The instructor that day was Matthew James Babcock, or Brother Babcock as I knew him at BYU–Idaho. That day was just a few months shy of ten years ago and my first lesson in the essay, but not my last. Before graduating from BYU–Idaho, I took a second class with Brother Babcock, this one focused solely on writing the essay. His lessons have stayed with me, shaped me. So, when I heard about his recently published debut essay collection, I couldn’t wait to learn from him again. Within minutes of opening Heterodoxologies, I felt Babcock’s presence almost tangibly. The collection is reminiscent of my classroom experiences with him at the helm: moments of profound insight sprinkled with healthy doses of goof. But this time the only prerequisite for the course is being human, of any variety: a music lover; a seventh grader; a bowler; a thinker; a dad; a dreamer.
Baring Imperfect Human Truths
Holly Welker, ed. Baring Witness: 36 Mormon Women Talk Candidly about Love, Sex, and Marriage. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2016. 296 pp. Paperback: $19.95.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Ostler. Dialogue, Summer 2017 (50:2).
We all know the Sunday School answers, but life rarely, if ever, plays out like a seminary video. So what do love, sex, and marriage look like in the lived experience of Mormon women?
Journalist, poet, and “spinster who thinks and writes a great deal about marriage” (1) Holly Welker has compiled a collection of essays that unapologetically reveals the intersection of Mormon theology, culture, individuality, and relational living in her latest book, Baring Witness: 36 Mormon Women Talk Candidly about Love, Sex, and Marriage.
Attempts to Be Whole
Scott Abbott. Immortal for Quite Some Time. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2016. 257 pp. Paperback: $24.95.
Reviewed by Scott Russell Morris, Dialogue, Summer 2017 (50:2).
In Immortal for Quite Some Time, Scott Abbott meditates on his brother’s death. That Abbott comes from a devoted Mormon family and that his brother was gay and died of AIDS is the tagline that seems to sell the book—and this review, too, apparently, as I am writing that first despite my best intentions—but really, this book is not about his brother John or about the homophobic culture of the LDS Church and many of its adherents, despite both of those being common motifs. It is about Scott Abbott. And, as all good personal non fiction is, it isn’t really about Scott Abbott either, but rather about what it means to grow up in a culture that is so overwhelmingly shaping that it “informs even your sentence structure” (89) and then to find that you no longer want to have a place in it. In the last few weeks as I’ve contemplated what I might say about Abbott’s book and as I’ve discussed it with others (one of whom saw it on my couch and asked, based on the title, if it was a vampire novel), I’ve described it in a few ways: It is about a BYU professor who was in the thick of the academic freedom concerns at BYU in the ’90s. Or, it is about a brother going through his dead brother’s things and thinking about what that might mean about the two of them, both nonconformists. For those more interested in writing and less about the story, I’ve told them about the most interesting feature of the book: It is written mostly as a series of journal entries, but there are a lot of other voices; for example, a female critic consistently questions the stories and rhetoric in Abbott’s entries, which he responds to in a separate editorial voice. There are also his brother’s words, at first taken from found texts like notebooks, letters, and book annotations, but then, toward the end, John actually speaks from the dead, directly to the narrator, though mostly to underscore the fact that he no longer has a voice, deflecting questions by responding, “You can probably answer that yourself,” and “I don’t really get to answer that, do I?” (207, 202).
The Garden of Enid: By a Mormon and For Mormons
Scott Hales. The Garden of Enid: Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl, Part One. Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2016. 168 pp. Paperback: $22.95.
Scott Hales. The Garden of Enid: Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl, Part Two. Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2017. 169 pp. Paperback: $22.95.
Reviewed by Brittany Long Olsen, Dialogue, Summer 2017 (50:2).
At its core, Scott Hales’s two-volume graphic novel The Garden of Enid: Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl is a coming-of-age-story through a Mormon lens. Self-proclaimed weird Mormon girl Enid is a misfit who feels equally misunderstood in her church community and at home with her single mother, a former alcoholic struggling with illness and depression. Some self-introspection and life-altering experiences lead Enid to care about other people and appreciate how much they care about her.
Laughter, Depth, and Insight: Enid Rocks Them All
Scott Hales. The Garden of Enid: Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl. Parts One and Two. Kofford Books. Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2016. 169 pp. Paperback: $22.95.
Reviewed by Steven L. Peck. Dialogue, Summer 2017 (50:2).
When I was growing up, comic strips provided part of the ontology of my world. I devoured regular comic books, graphic novels, and other bubble-voiced media, but comic strips played a different and more important role than these other closely related forms. It was in the four-paneled strip that I was rst introduced to philosophical thought, political commentary, satire, and the exploration of questions rather than the explication of information toward an answer. Plus they made me laugh. There was a point being made. About life. And often about my place in it. Comic strips were my first introduction into a weird form of deep psychology that let me explore what it meant to be me. The sign on Lucy’s famous wooden stand in Peanuts, offering, instead of lemonade, “Psychiatric Help: 5¢: The Doctor is IN” does not seem an inappropriate way to express one of the functions these comic strips played in my life. I suppose given my age it is not surprising that it was Charles Schultz’s famous comic that proved the gateway drug to my infatuation with the medium.
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