MR: “Of Prophets and Jugglers”

November 23, 2009 | 8 comments
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Mormon ReviewA new issue of The Mormon Review is available, with Rosalynde Welch’s review of The Book of Dave by Will Self. The article is available at:

Rosalynde Welch, “Of Prophets and Jugglers: Will Self’s The Book of Dave,” The Mormon Review, vol.1 no. 9 [HTML] [PDF]

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8 Responses to MR: “Of Prophets and Jugglers”

  1. Dave on November 23, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    If Rosalynde is publishing there, MR must be for real.

    Being a man of simpler tastes than Renaissance literature, here is the line that caught my attention: “Heaven was a ski resort in the Rockies.” One can only hope.

  2. Rosalynde Welch on November 23, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    Thanks, Dave. Self’s novel is a crazy weird parody of the Book of Mormon and other restoration themes, half science-fiction and half standard issue literary fiction. Mormons don’t come off so well, but restoration mythology drives the whole contraption, so there’s definitely something there for Mormons to chew on.

  3. Nate Oman on November 23, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    RW: How do you think that it compares with other high- or middle-brow literary works of late that have used Mormon themes. Here I am thinking in particular of Angles in America…

  4. Rosalynde Welch on November 23, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    Nate, _Angels_ is very similar in the way it draws on powerful Mormon images and themes at the same time that it portrays Mormon characters negatively—repressed/simpleminded/hypocritical/crazy/whatever. But Kushner is working on broadly political issues, whereas Self is much more interested in religion per se; the entire novel is an extended (often tiresome) satire of religion generally.

    If you compare it to “Big Love” (and I have only seen two or three episodes of the show, so take this with some salt), I think “The Book of Dave” offers a more interesting critique/exploration of Mormonism, in that it actually engages Mormon narratives and archetypes (specifically, the prophet) in a deep way; “Big Love” seemed to me only superficially about Mormons.

    Mormonism works in theme-driven narrative better than in character-driven pieces, I’d say, because its history and symbolism is so much more interesting than its membership. :)

  5. Frank McIntyre on November 24, 2009 at 10:00 am

    That quote about Marlowe is priceless. I immediately shared it with a friend.

  6. Observer on November 24, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    Thanks Rosalynde, great review and discussion. I had seen a very brief description of this book a few years ago, and it recently came back to mind. I looked at length in vain trying to find the title so I could look into it more. I think this qualifies as a coincidence (or maybe a tender mercy).

  7. Jonathan Green on November 24, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Rosalynde, why does Self care about Mormonism? Did he hit upon it by chance, or does he have some experience with it?

  8. smb on November 25, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    Great review of what sounds like a poorly executed book.
    I sort of liked Angels in America because despite its political shouting it was working on some difficult questions with intermittently compelling characters. This sort of sounds like the graphic novel to accompany Religulous. This essay serves as an excellent reminder that a critic can make of a novel more than it could otherwise be. It would be interesting to compare this type of prophetic parody with the intensely serious mimesis of someone like Gill (also in England and about whom I understand Matt Bowman has a forthcoming article).

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