“Clean” does not equal good.

I want to talk about LDS fiction, the kind Deseret Book and Covenant and Cedar Fort publish.

This is not a rant. I’m not being sarcastic, nasty, snarky, hateful, bitter, or any other pejorative one might chalk up to my tone. Whatever one might read into it, what I’m feeling right now is a deep sense of disappointment.

I have several LDS novels in my bookshelf by well-known LDS niche authors. There are two I have tried to start, but while the premises are interesting, they aren’t exactly my cuppa. The prose is adequate. They aren’t boring. I put them aside for when I’m in the mindset to read them.

This past week I started a book that’s right up my alley: contemporary romance. I was really looking forward to reading this book. Imagine my dismay when I started reading prose that is amateurish at worst, and at best, suited for 12-year-old girls. It is a series of choppy sentences strung together. There is no discernible rhythm to it. There is no ebb and flow. The dialogue is stilted and too infodumpy about LDS customs and rituals, which made me wonder for whom the book was intended, if not LDS. (We already know this stuff; don’t instruct us in our own culture.) There is no nuance, no allowance for a sophisticated reader, no subtext.

At the convergence of this post on the Association for Mormon Letters blog by Annette Lyon concerning the “clean”ness of books and an inability to find any clean romances in the national marketplace* and my soul-deep disappointment in the book I was struggling with (“soul-deep” is not hyperbole), I realized that LDS fiction needs to stop worrying about a book’s “clean”ness, because that’s the default position, and start concentrating on eradicating (sub)mediocrity.

 

 

*I’m not sure why it’s important, noteworthy, or desirable to have LDS fiction without LDS characters or anything relatable to the culture. You can get “clean” non-LDS fiction in the national marketplace. You cannot get LDS fiction in the national marketplace. If you’re gonna be niche, be niche.

 

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