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Mormon Aesthetics

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The Mormon dislike of realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in the glass.

The Mormon dislike of metaphor is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in the glass.

That's something I figured out from thinking about The Book of Mormon musical, and it's also why art produced by Mormons for Mormons is such useless crap.

with thanks to Oscar Wilde and his preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Tres Trey


Today I made a really dumb joke that I still really liked. I was talking about The Book of Mormon musical with an inactive returned missionary and South Park fan who hasn't even bothered to listen to the soundtrack. He asked me what it was like; I provided a few details; he said, "So it's pretty much Trey Parker."

I said, "It's tres Trey Parker."

I know. Really dumb. And sorta obvious. But the phrase doesn't show up in a google search.

I suppose you could say that the BOM musical is Trey outre as well.

The Book of Mormon won nine of the 14 Tonys it was nominated for--and of course it won the big one, best musical. Watch this, my favorite song from the show, and you should know why:

Put it on full screen and notice all the things they get right: for instance, the name tag is exactly right, the garment sleeves are too (though they don't get the neck right). And the hair! The bangs that could stand straight up but instead project straight out! Is that a BYU haircut or what? It was EVERYWHERE in 1988; these days it's most common in Provo. (Which is a shame, because I actually like that haircut.) But most of all, Andrew Rannells has the expressions and mannerisms of a 19-year-old Mormon boy who wants to believe--and, for a moment, believes he can.

ITTY BITTY SPOILER ALERT. DON'T READ THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW THE ONE ACTION IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING THIS SONG. But if you do want to know, here it is: General Butt-fucking Naked and his men take that Book of Mormon Elder Price is clutching so lovingly, and they shove it up his ass. You see Elder Price in a hospital gown, crouched uncomfortably, while a giant x-ray shows the BOM firmly lodged in his colon. When he next appears on stage, he's limping and carrying a shit-covered BOM in a ziplock bag.

Genius, I tell you. Genius.

I'm bummed that Rannells didn't win best lead actor. Nor did Rory O'Malley win "best actor in a featured role" for his performance as Elder McKinley, the "openly closeted" district leader. Bu Nikki M. James won "best actress in a featured role" for her performance as Nabulungi.

And check out Trey Parker thanking co-writer Joseph Smith at the end of this clip:

It Arrived!


Of course I knew that The Book of Mormon soundtrack was available to download last week, but the thing is, I wanted an actual cd with a case and liner notes, even if all that stuff did cost four whole extra dollars. (The same friend who likes to tease me about my quaint twentieth-century technology also thinks it's amusing that I buy books and CDs and keep them out where I can touch and look at and use them.) So when the album could be downloaded, I just went ahead and pre-ordered the cd, even though it wasn't going to be released until June 7. I knew I wanted it, so why wait?

Friday I got a notice that it had shipped. I thought, that's odd, since it won't be released for two and a half more weeks.

But look what I got in the mail today!


It's so lovely! The insert has all the lyrics and lots of pretty pictures.


There's a photo of Elder Price with blood all over his shirt after General Butt-Fucking Naked shoots a guy in the face at close range for daring to assert that the general had no business insisting that all the women in the village be circumcised. There's a picture of white guys dressed entirely in white singing "I Am Africa." There's a picture of Nabulungi, enraptured by hope, singing "Sal Tlay Ka Citi." There are lots of photos of smiling missionaries.

And the songs just sound so much better than they do played on Youtube, which is how I've been listening to them lately. :-)

Plus it arrived just in time for a road trip I'm taking tomorrow, with a friend who has yet to hear the entire soundtrack, so life is good.

Him and Her (But Mostly Him)


First, check this out:

Then, consider this point: It's not the least bit surprising that Parker and Stone get so much about Mormonism right, in ways that entertainment produced by Mormons for Mormons never can. Parker and Stone have talked about doing and obviously indeed do a great deal of research and fact-checking about Mormon doctrines, attitudes and behaviors. Their interest is in discovering and portraying Mormons accurately--including LDS contradictions, such as their arrogant niceness--instead of reinforcing the basic tenets of the faith and avoiding difficult questions. So it's not surprising that the South Park guys arrive at all sorts of great insights about Mormons, and that their portraits of Mormons and Mormonism are faithful and accurate as opposed to faith-promoting and proper.

Over on Main Street Plaza, I've been involved in a series of discussions of mixed-orientation marriages between gay Mormon men and straight Mormon women (or gay man/straight woman MOMs, aka gm/sw MOMs), which many of you will know is a topic I've been writing about for years. Indeed, the discussions were prompted in part by an essay I published in Sunstone a few years ago the subject.

One of my contributions to the discussion was this comment about "You and Me (But Mostly Me)," one of my favorite songs from The Book of Mormon musical. I wrote:

It works perfectly in the show with two male missionary companions, in part because it's an attitude enough 19-year-old Mormon guys have. But imagine it sung with a young Mormon man and his fiancee: it works even better. Both of them very likely accept that she is "the side dish on a slightly smaller plate," precisely because that's how they've been trained to see marriages: he is the captain, she is the mate.

In a subsequent thread, Chanson wrote


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Via a friend on Facebook: the opening song of the BOM(M).

It's pure aural joy! I cannot stop listening to it.

You'll be able to buy the whole soundtrack soon.

Two Awe-Inspiring Masterpieces


HW_NY4.jpgI was recently in New York to give a poetry reading, thanks to a big fat writing prize I won. It was a pleasure and an honor, and I met some very wonderful people, but I admit one highlight of the trip was that I got to see The Book of Mormon (musical), and boy oh boy do I have a testimony!

I'm not going to post a review of it here, both because I might have lined up a gig that will pay me to do that (fingers crossed, at least--I'm trying to make that happen more and more, because as Chris Clarke points out, exposure kills writers), and because I think you should read Troy Williams's brilliant review.

For so many reasons, this was my best trip to NY ever. One of the main reasons I travel is to see people, and of course I like meeting up with my friends. But not everyone likes the same sort of touristy activities. I've also done a lot of traveling by myself and I admit to being someone who frankly enjoys it, even if many people don't. I can read a map pretty well, and I know how to amuse myself.

This trip was the perfect blend between doing stuff alone without worrying that it was boring someone else, and hanging out with people. Thanks to the magic that is Facebook, as soon as I posted "Holly is in Manhattan" as my status, I got notes and messages from people wanting to meet up. It was wonderful to hang out with friends I hadn't seen in years.

One thing I did that not everyone would want to do is walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. About a year ago I started researching a project that involves bridges, and now I love them. Growing up in Arizona, I figured I knew how bridges were built: you waited until the water dried up in the summer, and then you built whatever you wanted. But when I went to Europe at age 20 and saw bridges centuries old over rivers that never dried up, it really freaked me out. How did they do that without everyone drowning, I wondered? But I was too busy to bother to find out.


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