Envisioning Mormon Art Laura Allred Hurtado. Immediate Present. New York: Mormon Arts Center, 2017. 132 pp. Paper. Reviewed by Sarah C. Reed. Dialogue, Spring 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.
Mette Ivie Harrison. Vampires in the Temple. BCC Press, 2018. Mette Ivie Harrison. Not of This Fold. Soho Crime, 2018. Reviewed by Julie L. Rowse I taught literature for a decade, and it’s sometimes hard for me to read a book and not see symbolism. The different critical approaches to literature are always in the back of my mind—ooh, here’s a feminist thread, ahh, there’s a biographical thread—but the further removed I am from teaching critical analysis of literature, the easier it’s become to just enjoy a story. And that’s what I tried to do as I read Mette Ivie Harrison’s Vampires in the Temple. I’d seen Harrison tweet about the premise, and as a fan of her deliciously transgressive novel Book of Laman (2017), I knew I’d get my hands on Vampires one way or another. Vampires? Mormons? Werewolves? Mormons? How could such a story possibly connect? Rather easily, actually.
In this Dialogue podcast Jana Riess discusses "Millennial Mormons: The Rising Generation of Latter-day Saints." From the Miller Eccles website: How do young adult Mormons — the “Millennials” — differ politically from older Mormons, and how do they relate to authority? Research from the Next Mormons Survey (2016) indicates that young Mormons are less likely to vote Republican or adopt conservative positions than older Mormons, but more likely to do so than non-Mormons their own age. They also show a somewhat weakened relationship to institutional authority and obedience than older Mormons, but are more responsive to authority than non-Mormon Millennials.
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