Sunday, December 17, 2006

Brother Brigham and Zarahemla Books

What do you do when obeying the commandment to raise a family means kissing all your dreams goodbye and getting locked into a dead-end job for life? And barely keeping your head above water at that? And what if the prophet is leading the church astray? That's when you need a miracle.

C. H. Young is making the best of plodding through the responsibilities of his humble life when all of the sudden he wins the lottery -- Mormon style!!!

If you believe in Mormon doctrine, on some level you you believe this could happen: An angel appears to an undistinguished person and tells him to prepare to be called to lead the church because it's time to restore "the new and everlasting covenant" (polygamy) and the sitting prophet is disobeying the command to do it.

It's every Mormon guy's secret fantasy and every Mormon woman's secret nightmare played out in thrilling detail. If you want to psychoanalyze a whole religion through its darkest dreams, Brother Brigham offers you Mormonism's naked psyche.

As C. H. struggles with accepting his call, the hardest part is dealing with the fact that he wants it -- but doesn't want to want it -- as by luck or divine providence all of the pieces fall neatly into place for him. Finally being able to provide things that are a little bit nicer than the rock-bottom bare necessities for his beloved family is on some level a guilty pleasure even when commanded by God. Finally having the opportunity to develop his musical talents is a spiritual command that C. H. can't help but experience in sensual detail. And sincerely struggling to be a "good polygamous husband" as he divides his attentions between two sexy ladies competing for his love? You can bite into the feeling of how badly he doesn't want to want it...

The story really isn't threatening to an LDS reader's faith -- it's frightening only on the level of "Do we really want to go there? Do we really want to be prodding this sore spot? Exploring every emotion in intimate and reckless abandon?" Yet the novel provides a weirdly cathartic purging of these dangerous feelings.

It's a guilty pleasure to read Brother Brigham. It's a story that takes you to heaven and hell and back. You read it in a day then catch your breath and want a cigarette. Then you remember you don't smoke.

Brother Brigham by D. Michael Martindale is one of three original titles being offered by the new LDS publishing house Zarahemla Books!!! The other two currently offered are Kindred Spirits by Christopher Bigelow (discussed here) and Long After Dark by Todd Robert Petersen which I haven't read yet. Zarahemla Books is also distributing some existing titles such as The Pictograph Murders by P. G. Karamesines.

From what I understand, the charter of Zarahemla Books is to provide fiction that is ultimately LDS-faith-friendly yet willing to explore a little bit outside the Deseret-Book-and-church-correlation box.

I assume at least some of you reading this think it's pretty wacky of me -- as a non-believer -- to have any interest at all in LDS fiction for the LDS audience. But really I'm fascinated by literary portraits of Mormon culture from all different perspectives. And I don't want to limit myself with a ridiculous conceit such as thinking it's impossible for a true believer to have an interesting take on some aspect of Mormonism.

Some say you "recover from Mormonism" by practically forgetting that you were ever Mormon at all. Others (not naming any names or anything ;-) ) seem to think that retaining a relaxed interest in exploring the culture that formed you is also a sign of a healthy and well-adjusted exmo. ;-)

If you're part of the latter camp (or if you're a Mormon or just Mo-curious), you might want to go have a look at the Zarahemla Books website and see what kind of entertainment the Mormons-outside-the-box have to offer!!! :D


Sister Mary Lisa said...

Interesting stuff. I love your book reviews.

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks SML!!!

I have so much fun doing book reviews that I almost wish I could do it professionally instead of my regular job. But then I think that maybe if I had to do it, I'd start thinking "Oh no, not another book I have to read..." and then sneaking off to write Java programs in my spare time as a hobby... ;-)

Sister Mary Lisa said...

I have had the same fear with my dream of being a stay at home mom and artist. Would I HATE to draw if I was doing it all day, every day?

Naaah. Probably not. That's like me asking would I hate to blog if I did it all day, every day. Hah!

C. L. Hanson said...


I don't think anything could keep blogging from being fun. :D

Rebecca said...

I think people just deal with leaving "The Church" differently - some need to leave it totally behind, others don't. It's all gooood. This book sounds way interesting. I'm glad you read these and post the reviews, since otherwise I'd never go check them out.

Anonymous said...

Your review made it very enticing!

It's good to see you blog-active, at least for this entry!

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Rebecca!!!

Very true -- I don't mean to suggest that those who want to forget the church entirely are wrong, just different strokes for different folks, as you say. :D

Thanks Noell!!!

I'm back in business, and I've got a whole bunch more posts planned... :D

-Domokun- said...

"Mo-curious" - that is pretty funny, yet a little bit wrong, too.

C. L. Hanson said...


It's mostly that I was tired of saying "or if you just find Mormonism kind of interesting" in such phrases.

But I admit I was giggling with wicked glee when I thought of that perverse little gem... :D

The Sinister Porpoise said...

And which category do I fall into? :P

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Sinister Porpoise!!!

I guess not everyone is easy to categorize... ;-)

Kalv1n said...

Okay, this sounds absolutely salacious. I may just have to pick it up.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Kalvin!!!

Oh it is!!!

It's a fairly erotic scenario, yet not too explicit since it's for the LDS audience. It may be more scandalous than salcious, though, particularly once it starts looking like the main character is going to take on the teenage babysitter as his third wife...

p.s. I had to look up salacious to make sure I understood it correctly, you cute little pedantic vocabulary-builder-helper guy you!!! ;-)

T Wanker said...

I enjoyed your review and agree with you whole heartedly that "retaining a relaxed interest in exploring the culture that formed you is also a sign of a healthy and well-adjusted exmo."

I'll be interested to check out the books you mentioned.

But speaking of being a well-adjusted exmo, I think my fantasy of the restoration of polygamy has been altered. Sure, as a pure blooded male, I want to see the new and everlasting covenant, but as an aethestic hedonist, yet trying to maintain political correctness, I think we should have a newer and longerlasting covenant, where every male is sealed to every female and every female is sealed to every male and we are all one in an orgiastic Zion, of one heart, one mind and one body.

C. L. Hanson said...

T. Wanker, that would truly be heaven on Earth, wouldn't it? ;-)

I've just gone and had a glimse of your blog, and since it appears to be an exmo blog, I'd like to link to you (however I have to put a warning label because I sincerely don't want to offend my more sensitive readers).

p.s. Have you read my posts about porn and/or my novel? ;-)

T Wanker said...

Definitely put up my post with as rabid a warning as you can muster (I'm sure that will get me more hits.) Also, yes, I think that it qualifies as a former Mo blog.

I just discovered your blog today, as I'm reveling in a quiet day at work, to play hookie on my computer. I'm going to go through and read the articles you sent the links for.

As soon as my budget has recovered from Christmas, I'm going to get your book and read and review it.

T Wanker said...

Oh, sorry, I guess this is a question of blogging etiquette, but I already stuck you up as a link on my site -- should I make similar requests to other bloggers, if I want to list their sites?

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks T-wanker!!!

Nothing makes me happier than people reading and reviewing my book!!!

As far as etiquette is concerned, you really only have to worry about not linking to me. That's what will get you into big trouble!!!! ;-)

Just one of many said...

I wouldn't mind polygamy if we could ALL enjoy the marriage bed at the same time! No since the male getting all his jollies!! BTW I second SML's feelings about your book reviews! I am the latter in the exmo beliefs!! I believe I am who I am from my sum experiences and to deny any experience, no matter how painful, is to deny who I have become!

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks Joom!!!

That's the trouble with Mormon polygamy, isn't it? They take "the more the merrier" to a point, but not quite far enough... ;-)