On October 17, 2017, my teacher, my mentor, and my friend, Doug Thayer, passed away. In the area of Mormon literature—literature by, for, and about Mormons—Doug was a big deal. Mormon literary critics call him the “Mormon Hemingway” for his spare style of declarative sentences building the story period by period, as well as his interest in the natural world around him and a Mormon’s place in it. He was a master of the coming-of-age story. One of his main themes was that of innocence being cast out into the world and of necessity facing the realities of everyday existence. Many times, a young man who had grown up in the sheltered life of Utah Valley, and who was thus rather innocent and naive, would be forced to confront the evil, pain, and suffering of the World for the first time, and would have to learn to deal with it with what faith and light he had. If you have ever wondered what Mormon Literature has to offer, then Doug’s work is among the best. Continue reading “Douglas H. Thayer: In Memoriam”
In case you’re having dirty thoughts, “Bissextus Day” is the fancy word for the 29th of February, the day added to the Gregorian calendar every fourth year to compensate for the difference between the common 365-day year and the actual length of the solar year. A leap year is also called “bissextile.”
In Other News
I’m actively reading the following books, all of which I recommend:
- Dark Watch and Other Mormon-American Stories by William Morris
- The Evening and the Morning by Virginia Sorensen
- Nothing Very Important and Other Stories by Béla Petsco
- About Writing by Samuel R. Delany
I’m also working on a short story and an outline for a novel. The short story is for entry into an anthology of Alternate Mormon History. The deadline is March 19th. Good luck to me.
The novel, well, I don’t want to talk about it yet. But it has a little Hmong, a little Mormon, a little of everything wrapped up in it.
Well, I better post this before my Bissextus Day runs out.
Featured Photo by Gratisography.
If you’re a writer, what are you working on? If a reader, what are you reading?
The Mormon Shorts I’m talking about are found in Scott Hales’s book of comics and micro-fiction of the same name. (Yes, the Scott Hales of The Garden of Enid: Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl fame.) This collection brings together 50 comics from the first year of Scott’s new webcomic, Mormon Shorts, and 150 micro-stories from the @mormonshorts Twitter account. It is 100 pages of humorous cultural commentary on Mormon life, past and present.
I bought both the print book and the ebook. The structure of the print book is nice because on one page you have one or more micro-stories and on the other you have a comic. It was a nice balance. For obvious reasons, the ebook cannot reproduce this structure. In the ebook, the comics come first and the micro-fiction last. Either way, it’s a great and quick read.
Mormon Shorts is funny. To get the humor, it helps to be familiar with Mormon cultural references, but I suspect that even those not of the Mormon faith may be humored not only by some of the comics, but also by some of the things Mormons worry about. The very first comic, for example, presents a young return-missionary who takes 740 days (that’s another two years beyond his mission period of two years) to give up his white shirt and clean-shaven look.
In Mormon Shorts, key figures in Mormon history (Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and others) make guest appearances. One of my favorite series of comics, the Father’s Lounge is the venue for Sunday philosophizing by fathers holding infants. It often features two men trying to outdo each other while discussing the topic at hand. In another comic, the Abrahamic mummy appears wearing sunglasses and discussing faith crises. The micro-fiction has nice juxtaposition between what is the norm in Mormon culture and a different, funny punch line that often you don’t see coming. Most of the comics or micro-stories are funny, but some are serious and contemplative. Scott Hales even appears in his comics as himself sometimes.
Here are a few of my favorite shorts:
His life was an endless cycle of meetings and two-minute devotionals.
Janice broke her fast halfway through bearing her testimony to the congregation.
He greeted every member of the ward with a handshake and a smile—except Brother Giles, who had denounced him as a communist back in ’52.
In the end they decided they loved each other, but not eternally.
He wanted to feel the freedom of swearing like J. Golden Kimball.
Nathan had not realized that he lived in an R-rated world until he accidentally saw an R-rated movie.
The new baby looked uncannily like the more flattering pictures of Eliza R. Snow.
There are many more just as funny. I recommend this book of comics for its humor and wit. If you want to see more of Scott Hales’s work, check out The Garden of Enid: Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl also.
Now, go get your shorts on at Amazon.
If you’ve read Mormon Shorts, share what you think about it in the comments below.
Utah is a fine place to grow old together, she said. It’s secure. In the darkness, they were rounding the Point of the Mountain when the lights of the valley floor rolled into view, and she said that. They had just come from attending a session at the Draper temple, because the one nearest them was closed for cleaning. Gripping the wheel, he felt his wanderlust well up. Visions of traveling the world, expatriating to further his career, serving a mission in a foreign land faded in and out just beyond the focus of his headlights. Nothing is so settled in life, he thought, as God’s unsettling a contented life. So much can happen in so few years. Disease, disaster, death. They descended into the valley homeward. He couldn’t decide whether the dark mountains on all sides kept the World out or walled them in Zion, but he reached for her hand, squeezed it, and said, Yes, it’s secure.
Last Saturday, the Association for Mormon Letters (AML) held their annual conference at Utah Valley University. Unlike previous years, it was a one-day affair, instead of two, but despite its reduction in scale, it was a lot of fun and well worth the four hours. I’m sure that many will join with me in extending a heartfelt thanks to James and Nicole Goldberg for their efforts to organize the conference and bring it off so smoothly. Continue reading “What Happened at the 2015 AML Conference?”