Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Spotlight on writing, Mormon lit, book reviews, and media

Here are the posts that make my blog the web's most entertaining outsider's take on Mormon literature!!! Plus it's one of the only blogs covering exmo lit, with a few non-mo book and media reviews thrown in just for fun!!!

Mormon Lit Misfit
Some may say that by writing stories about Mormons from an apostate perspective, I'm being one of those people who "can leave the church but can't leave it alone."

I ask, whose childhood am I supposed to write about? I didn't ask to be raised in this religion.

I know some of you who believe in the pre-existence will say that in fact I did ask to be raised in this religion, before I was born and everything. But I know myself pretty well, and I'm sure that if I did ask to be raised Mormon back in the pre-existence, I was just kidding.

Grammar Police: Rules are meant to be, like, broken
For one thing, I disagree with the theory that the use of profanity indicates that the speaker necessarily has a small vocabulary. The latent mathematician in me can't keep from pointing out that actively avoiding profanity technically makes your vocabulary smaller, not bigger. Sure it's easy to over-use naughty words, but if you know how to use them well, you can achieve certain effects that you can't create without them.

La littérature dangereuse: Lifestyles of the rich and literate
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the universe of Les Liaisons Dangereuses is not even remotely innocent. It is unabashedly cynical, and for that reason it is in some ways the most fun of the three.

Parade of Mormon Light Fiction: The secret pleasure of it
The theme to this book seems to be "being Mormon is a lot of work." The whole time I was reading it, I kept thinking, "Boy, am I ever glad I left the church!"

An Atheist Fantasy? Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" Trilogy
Aside from that point, if you kind of squint and look sideways at Pullman's premise, he gives a bit of a nod to science and skepticism by positing a sci-fi explanation for magical mysticism involving sentient dark matter. But even so, his magical, mystical universe -- in which shamanistic magic works, consulting the I-Ching yields concrete, factual information, and people's ghosts live on in the underworld when they die -- seems to me like the antithesis of the type of universe I would attach to word "atheist" to.

The Mo thriller vs. the post-Mo thriller: The Pictograph Murders by P. G. Karamesines and Wives and Sisters by Natalie R. Collins
The contrast that really took me by surprise, however, was that in the mystery by the apostate author, the hero was an exmormon/apostate and the villain was a devout Mormon, whereas in the mystery written by a Mormon, it turned out that the hero was a faithful Mormon and the villain was an atheist.

Hahahahahahahahahaha!!! Just kidding -- that didn't surprise me at all. In fact it was exactly what I was expecting before I cracked open either one of these two books.

Mormon Meat: Christopher Bigelow's Kindred Spirits
I knew before picking up this book that the author is a believing Mormon. So I kind of expected that this more-realistic-than-flattering portrait of Mormonism would be just a starting point, and from there he would build to a strong LDS-faith-promoting crescendo. But he didn't. It turns out this novel is more faith-exploring than faith-promoting. For that reason (plus the profanity and explicit sexual content) many Mormons will not like this book. However I'm sure there are some Mormons out there with a strong constitution and an interest in church history who will like it. I liked it even though it didn't stroke my beliefs any more than it strokes the beliefs of the Mormons (the only exmormon/apostate character being a misbehaving ne'er-do-well).

I should have moved to Estonia instead...
I can just picture myself spending the whole morning giggling while crafting the perfect line that is a subtle riff on some typical stereotype about Estonians. And then I picture my American audience reading it and going "Wha...? I don't get it..."

Post-Mormon perspectives
In short, I play the proverbial benevolent deity who gives her creations serious trials to overcome, but refuses to give them more than they can ultimately handle. Collins is more like the "cruel realities" deity who says to her creations "Oops, you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, so too bad for you." Wham!

My conspiracy theory!!!
As a cultural Mormon, I couldn't help but find it amusing that Brown sets out to show that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, which is a popular Mormon folk-doctrine that was taught by some early LDS church leaders. It wasn't until I read the whole book in all of its secrets-of-the-Templars glory that I saw how very perfectly the Mormons fit into the world Dan Brown set up!!!

Simpsons Proverbs
This is my all-time favorite Simpson's quote!!! I can't explain why -- I just know that when I heard that one from the toddler Ned Flanders, I couldn't stop laughing for weeks.

I've added this one to my everyday vocabulary. If something falls or gets spilled at our house, it's always "Whoops-a-doodle!"

However the most ridiculous part in my mind is that Diabolik makes his living stealing these famous, incredibly valuable jewels, yet in all the episodes I've read, I haven't seen any concern or explanation of how he manges to resell these objects for money. Yet Diabolik has as many gadgets as Batman or James Bond. To me it's not clear that he could really afford all these amazing gadgets just on the black-market value of stolen jewels. So I've developed my own theory that in his spare time he likes to steal stuff from Wallace and Gromit's house.

Thoughts on Jack Weyland
Basically you have to accept that this is the perspective that he's writing from if you want to read his work. It is written as light entertainment and instruction, and as such it is intended to be pleasant and affirming to the sensibilities of LDS readers.

My Ex is Having Sex with Rex!!!
Even though Jennifer is incredibly positive about pro-actively getting her own life in order and about giving number one top priority to her kids' well-being above all else, this book obviously ends up being a strong cautionary tale about why -- if you are a straight person -- you should not marry a gay person, imagining that somehow against all odds you'll find a way to make it work.

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