Summarized by Kent Larsen
Five Books Earn AML Awards for 1999
Kent Larsen 22Feb00 A4
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- The Association of Mormon Letters recognized
five works published by Mormon authors during 1999 as the best works
of the year during its annual conference on Saturday. The Association
seeks to recognize the best in Mormon literature and promote Mormon
literature through its symposia, conferences, workshops, magazine
"Irreantum" and through its other programs. The AML
conference was held Saturday at Westminister College in Salt Lake.
The awards were given in five different categories; Devotional
Literature, Drama, Essay, Novel and Short Story. The awards were as
* LDS Apostle Neal A. Maxwell for "One More Strain of Praise"
* BYU Professor Eric Samuelsen for "The Way We're Wired"
* Martha Nibley Beck for "Expecting Adam"
* Anne Perry for "Tathea"
* Mary Clyde for "Survival Rates"
Maxwell's "One More Strain of Praise" was recognized by the
Association as a classic example of Maxwell's unique writing. He has
been called the LDS C.S. Lewis and the LDS Augustine, and the AML
says that touches of both can be found in his writing. It says that
his writing is "buoyant without being glib, intelligent without
being arch, and always heartfelt without being maudlin."
Samuelsen's "The Way We're Wired" was produced at BYU in
May 1999. The AML praised the play for "taking us deeply and satisfyingly
into the minds and hearts of real people, posing as theatrical characters;
lets us take the measure of their pain and joy; and causes us to
discover that they are us." Samuelsen, who is undoubtedly one of
the finest LDS playwrights ever, takes contemporary Mormon life to a new
level, "where the coinage is neither propaganda nor criticism,
but, actually, love."
Beck's "Expecting Adam," gained national notoriety, and is
exemplary for its Mormon outlook in spite of the author's desire to put
Mormonism behind her. The daughter of well-known BYU professor and
LDS author Hugh Nibley, Beck attacks the intellectual establishment
at Harvard for its inability to see that her then unborn
downs-syndrome child had value and shouldn't be aborted. LDS readers
will also find in the book many "beliefs most of us still dress
in other language but still admit into our family of
Perry's "Tathea" is the first LDS-oriented novel by this
well-known mystery writer. The AML says that in the book "Fundamental
gospel concepts come into focus through the under-utilized but fully apt
lens of epic story-telling." While the book is classified as
fantasy by many, the AML says that "to call it escapist fantasy, or
place it in any pigeonhole at all, is to minimize its accomplishment. It is
genre-busting fiction at its best."
Clyde's "Survival Rates" represents the third time that an
LDS author has wone the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction. The
additional AML award shows that this is no fluke. Clyde's stories are
"wonderfully human, universal, guardedly hopeful, and always
important, incisive, of good report, and praiseworthy -- as good as
it gets -- we seek after her work." Her characters are
"believable but ordinary people who are trying to learn what survival means in harsh world where, after all, no one survives for very long."
And the New York Times said "Although the stories here are all strong,
a few are splendid."