Waiting for ‘The Great Mormon Novel’

I think what most surprised me about this review of The Lonely Polygamist in Slate was that it succeeded in offering a meaningful discussion of LDS letters and the novel in question without making mention of Orson Scott Card or Stephenie Meyer.

That was a surprise — but still a disappointment. If there has been or will be a ‘Great Mormon Novel,’ it almost certainly will not be a Portnoy’s Complaint set in Salt Lake City or the Utah out-back as Polygamist seems to be. As others less charitable than I (Mark Twain, anyone?) have noted, the faith of these Saints is founded in poorly written fantasy fiction if obviously inspired and I believe their most popular and challenging writers – by which I mean Meyer and Card — create books in the same genre.

I explore the Mormon content of Twilight in the last chapters of Spotlight: A Close-Up Look at the Artistry and Meaning of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga. Prof. Steve Walker of Brigham Young University, whom Mrs. Meyer has said was the biggest influence on her writing except for the books she has read, said about Spotlight that —

John Granger’s Spotlight probes deeply into Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series by means of an Eliade lens: “The reason people read is for some experience transcending their lives as egos.”  The reason we read Meyer so passionately, the reason we enter so “fully into her stories,” Granger shows us, is the compelling mythic implications of her narratives, the religious “depths and heights” they share with some of the best English literature. Granger persuades me that Meyer’s religious thought is so crucial to her fiction that to read it without consideration of the theology is to miss much of the point. As a believing Mormon like Meyer, I can testify it’s no light matter to succeed as this critical view does in deepening a Christian’s reading of his own theology. If you’re interested in how much religion can matter in modern fiction, you’ll be interested in Spotlight.

Professor Steve Walker, author of The Power of Tolkien’s Prose

I hope we can get that blurb on the back cover of Spotlight someday. Until then, let your LDS friends,  the serious readers you know, and your Twi-Hard buddies know about it, okay?

Comments

  1. John Stanifer says:

    Wow, that’s a nice blurb. Sounds like the next best thing to having Meyer herself endorse the book.

    I had a literature professor in college who used to talk about the mythical Great American Love Story that he hoped someone would write someday. I brought up “Gone With the Wind,” but he didn’t seem to think that was so great. Seems to me like a matter of perspective.

    Who decides what constitutes a “Great” novel about anything? If I were an author like Meyer, I would rather be popular with millions of folks from the “unwashed masses” than be labeled as the Great Mormon Artist and not sell more than a few hundred copies…

  2. Arabella Figg says:

    This is a great endorsement, John. Congrats!

  3. Well done for getting Walker to respond with a sentence like, “Granger persuades me that Meyer’s religious thought is so crucial to her fiction that to read it without consideration of the theology is to miss much of the point.” To have a person like him, with his expertise in both great Christian literature writers such as Tolkein and Lewis, as well as being a practising LDS, and having had such an influence in Meyer’s writing development (as she has said), is a big coup.

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