Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Report on My BYU Reading

My reading up at BYU on Friday, October 17, went well, and I enjoyed it more than I expected. The 40 minutes passed quickly, and I did not feel nervous. (My worst thing about speaking publicly is preparing something I feel confident about; once I know what I'm going to say, I'm fine.) The large auditorium was at least half-full with over 100 people, but only 3–4 people bought books at the reception afterward.

I was surprised at how meaningful and validating it felt to be invited onto BYU campus as an author in the English Department's well-publicized reading series, and I know they took some risks to invite me because my novel Kindred Spirits contains sex scenes that could trigger student complaints.

A couple of students told me they didn't like Eliza, the main character in Kindred Spirits. I can see why she's a problematic character for readers because I put roughly equal amounts of satire and testimony into her, and that's not a mix that's easy to parse, especially for Mormon readers who crave a clear gospel-promoting message. The novel reflects my mockery of Mormon culture, my fascination with some of the faith's weirder beliefs, and ultimately my own deep belief in the theology.

I admire the faculty in the English Department for staying afloat in such a repressive atmosphere. As you can imagine, BYU is not a friendly place for creative exploration of humanity, and the professor who invited me told me that BYU has actually asked its faculty not to write literature about the Mormon experience, I suppose because realistic literature upsets students when it doesn't clearly function as gospel propaganda.

Anyway, while I was on campus a couple of students from the Inscape literary magazine interviewed me, and I'll post the edited transcript over the next few days.

1 comment:

Chris Rusch said...
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