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Stephenie Meyer – What did she do for us?

November 23, 2008

Stephenie Meyer, good, bad, or indifferent, seems to unwittingly hold a place in every Mormon’s heart. Some love her for being a successful author, while others hate her for being a being a successful author of such…pop vampire romance (I dunno…what kind of genre is that anyway?) But somehow, there’s this Mormon-dar that seems to draw all Mormon eyes to Ms. Meyer.

The Book that started it all...

Twilight: the Book that started it all...

And really, Ms. Meyer has a lot going for her: A successful book. What’s looking very quickly at being a successful movie. Enough money to allow her to live very comfortably even after tithing. Yep. It’s a very enviable position.

But how will this help the church? How will this put Mormons on the map? As far as Mormon literature goes, we’ve had a few hits in the general public. Anyone ever read a little book called Ender’s Game?

But…I don’t know…I get this feeling that members aren’t quite so happy with these successes. They don’t really scream out Mormonism. It’s just a piece of trivia to mention, “Hey! Stephenie Meyer’s a member of my church!” to a nonmember fan. I like to think that’s a good thing for Orson Scott Card, because when he talks about doctrinal affairs…well…I think there’s a reason he’s not a general authority. And really, as A Motley Vision has written about, I think Mormons want a work that is like Fiddle on the Roof was for Judaism. Fiddler, you see…was this huge work that reached national prominence and could be universally shared…yet of course, everyone knows it is a Jewish work. Maybe it’s the names. I dunno.

But Mormons haven’t figured it out, yet. You have writers who write far away from Mormonism, writers who write with Mormonism so cleverly sheathed that you would never know it unless you were on the inside (like my accounting professor who thinks he is so clever by making the names of companies on tests just happen to coincide with the names of general authorities — he likes to tell people how his wife met Stephenie Meyer when she was at BYU…that’s that Mormon-dar’s trivia machine for you), and then writers who write so moralistically inside church tradition that it seems like the works are apologism in novel form. And I think a lot of members want a work that testifies of the Gospel and is like this third type of novel, but that still can be prominent nationally. And I don’t think we’ll have that any time soon.

I don’t really care if Mormons get the next supernovel. But I dunno…I’d rather not have teenage romance Mary-Sue-Anyone-can-put-themselves-in-a-relationship-with-a-glittering-vampire stories be what is representative of the most successful of Mormon literature (or rather, literature by a Mormon) in the future.

And just because I like this, here’s a summary of Twilight by the artist/author of webcomic Head Trip:

Glitter? Really now.

Glitter? Really now.

But a more pressing matter is…how will the superstitious members handle this. I remember when Harry Potter came out, members from my very own ward refused to read such satan-promoting trash. How will these members react to Mormon vampires?!
Pressing discussion on potential great novels (what makes one? Can it be done in an LDS context? etc.,) at Mormon Matters.

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7 Comments
  1. Lynne permalink

    What’s the matter with you? Didn’t you know that success = quality? UR OBVUSLY JELLUS CUZ STEPHNY RAITS BETER THAN U
    /sarcasm

    It makes me sad that books like these and Dan Brown’s books make so much money when Marilynne Robinson and Anne Tyler don’t.

  2. Lindsae permalink

    Wow. You are the epitome of narrow-minded, segregationist Mormon culture. I am LDS too, but dude, you make me want to vomit. If you’re going to criticise Stephenie Meyer, at least do it over her skills as an author (which is probably all you can claim to be qualified to do — and I even doubt your abilities there). She just wrote a stinking book. And how refreshing that she did it authentically, and not for your trumped-up purposes of putting Mormonism on the map…. are you seriously kidding me? Ugh, go back to your Work and the Glory, bah….

    And if Harry Potter is satanist, then you are Queen Elizabeth.

  3. Wow, this is a GREAT honor, Lindsae. I’ve never been called the EPITOME of narrow-minded, segregationist Mormon culture before.

    I’ve been called a lot of things, but never that.

    Now, I will let you know that I only seriously criticize Stephenie Meyer over her skills as an author. The rest of the post is, what would you call it, jest.

    The thing is, of course she didn’t do it to put Mormonism on the map. But members want and NEED a work to put Mormonism on the map. We NEED a Fiddler on the Roof. Could it have been Meyer’s work? Well, not really. But can’t we all hope?

    WHY CAN’T SOMEONE PUT MORMONISM ON THE MAP AND BE AUTHENTIC, Lindsae?! Is literary Mormonism exclusive from authenticity?!

    And of course, I’m not the one who thinks Harry Potter is Satanist, or you can call me Satan-worshipping Queen Elizabeth, (call me Liz for short). But my fellow ward members — who might be members of that narrow-minded, segregationist Mormon culture you refer to — certainly think that.

  4. Moonyprof permalink

    Hi–I know it’s a bit late, but I followed several links over from John Granger’s *Forks High Professor.* I’m weighing in as someone who grew up knowing someone (my great-grandfather) who spoke Yiddish and who went to the Yiddish theater and read the original Sholom Aleichem in what you might call something closer to its cultural milieu.

    I think in order to have an LDS *Fiddler,* you’d have to have something like the two-stage process Aleichem’s work went through. Aleichem wasn’t intending to write something accessible and super popular. He was writing about the world he knew. He was “the Jewish Mark Twain.” His stories are funny in the same brutal way that Chekhov is funny; because if you don’t laugh, you’ll never stop crying. Absolutely nothing is watered down: it’s all the world of the shtetl. If you don’t know from shochet or yeshiva, eh (shrug) he’ll tell you.

    *Fiddler* is the romanticized version of some of Aleichem’s stories as filtered through a few generations. The original production had some famous Yiddish theater performers, like Molly Picon; it had tunes and a book and lyrics written by fairly assimilated Jewish theater workers. When Aleichem’s daughter went to a performance, her opinion was that it was a perfectly lovely *American musical comedy*–but not her father’s books.

    I think in order to create an LDS *Fiddler*, you’d have to find something good written by a Saint in the late nineteenth, early twentieth century. Something real, with all the detail unsoftened. *Then* it would have to be reworked by LDS composers and writers and performers and made just enough more mainstream that audiences could enjoy it. People enjoy the different-sounding names and foods and cultural practices as long as there’s some snappy tunes, a good love story, and a happy ending, none of which Aleichem had.

  5. Thanks for the comment, Moonyprof.

    But as I read it, I begin go understand how there are some things that are unlikely: I think in order to create an LDS *Fiddler*, you’d have to find something good written by a Saint in the late nineteenth, early twentieth century. Something real, with all the detail unsoftened.

    I actually don’t think that the cultural foundation was fully there in late nineteenth/early twentieth…but even looking forward (at a couple centuries from now — considering the cultural climate even allows for a new *Fiddler*), a problem with LDS literature/media is that it’s not often you find “something real, with all the detail unsoftened.” Unfortunately, I don’t see that tide necessarily being turned, with many members wanting novels/plays/musicals that only portray the most positive image (to the point of boycotting, whether officially or implicitly) shadier tales.

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