The Great Mormon Novel--Can It Be Written?
I was reading a blog on the Mormon Times recently about how, in the blogger’s opinion, there can never be a Great Mormon novel because there isn’t enough wiggle room in the Mormon religion and gray areas to be explored. He felt like the Mormon religion demanded so much of its members that a true Mormon surrendered their “egos, ideas, and ambition,” to promoting the faith. And so, if you want to promote the faith, you can’t write the Great Mormon novel, and without the blessing of the church, it wouldn’t be a true Mormon novel, anyway, so we’re stuck more or less.
I’ve thought about this a lot and I wondered, first of all, do we need a great Mormon novel? Apparently one of the criteria of a great Mormon novel is to delve into gray areas that wouldn’t promote the faith. Why would anyone want to do that and call it a great Mormon novel? And, honestly, do people really think that authors who consider themselves “true Mormons” surrender their ego, ideas and ambitions to promote the faith in their writing? I know plenty of authors with healthy egos and just as many authors with incredible ideas that have nothing to do with Mormonism and yet, they are still good Mormons. Promoting the faith isn’t all there is to Mormon authors and I don’t believe that being a good Mormon would hinder any author from writing the great Mormon novel
One sentence in the blog stood out to me and made me wonder a little more. “In the future, I’m sure LDS writers will produce wonderful novels.” Hmmm…that makes it sound to me like this blogger doesn’t read LDS works currently. (Or else he hasn’t liked anything he’s read.) I don’t know if he does read what’s out there now, but that one sentence stuck out to me. He is making judgments with his opinion of whether or not the great Mormon novel could be written by LDS authors in good standing, and yet, he feels that wonderful novels by LDS writers are something for the future. Frankly, I think LDS writers have produced some wonderful novels and they just keep getting better and better. LDS fiction has improved by leaps and bounds, but mainly I’ve noticed so many LDS writers doing national work and doing an incredible job. If there is to be a great Mormon novel, there is no doubt in my mind that we have the talent for it among us. I guess it comes down to someone wanting to write it. Or perhaps there are currently literary masterpieces out there that could be termed the great Mormon novel, but who is to be the judge of that? How will we know when the great Mormon novel has been written?
Near the end, the blogger says, “the great Mormon novel is a dream held by literary types in the church.” I disagree because of the generality of the statement, but even if it is the dream of some literary types, why stamp on it? Why tell them they are dreaming the impossible dream? (Now I have that song going through my head . . . to dream, the impossible dream, ah, Don Quixote). In my opinion, the generation with us and before us are some of the most talented and capable men and women I’ve ever seen. If there is a great Mormon novel, or one that is yet to be written, I have no doubt it can be achieved and still stay true to the author’s convictions and maintain their egos, ideas, and ambitions. It may take courage, empathy, and perspective, but I definitely think it's possible.