Dave’s Literary Invention: A Play in 4 Acts & an Epilogue

I

The Establishment Scene:

“Dave! Long time no see! What you been up to?”

“Oh you, know just spending my days trying to bring down the president of the United States. You?”

 

II.

Rising Conflict #1:

“Spending your days doing what?”

“Bringing down the presidency. Did you vote for him?”

“Yes, but I regret it.”

“Great. What are doing today to bring down the President of the United States and his administration?”

“Nothing.”

“I guess we’ll see you when it’s over then. Can’t waste my time with you. Ciao.”

 

 

III.

Rising Conflict #2:

“Spending your days doing what?”

“Bringing down the presidency. Did you vote for him?”

“Of course. And I’m glad I did. ‘Make America Great Again!'”

“We’ll see you later . . . when it’s all over.”

“What?”

“I’m looking for allies at this point. Not converts. Ciao.”

 

IV.

Climax

“45’s gone! He’s outta here. Thank, God!”

“Well, of course he is. You libertards drove him out. Shameful.”

“You are entitled to your opinion. But we will never, ever let you get away with threatening The Republic again. Move out of the way!”

 

Epilogue

“We didn’t choose this moment. The moment chose us. I rose. I fought. I lost friends and family. I almost lost my country. I would do it again. Now that the crisis is over, it is a time for healing . . . but we will never, ever forget.”

 

The End

(But not the end . . . )

Keep in Check your Cherished Opinions, then . . .

the-answer

Check Your Cherished Opinions

Stand Up and Be Counted

Compromise for the Benefit of the Collective

On the eve of the 2016 election, I am at rest. No more campaigning. No more snappy rejoinders on Facebook. No more snark. And while I believe there is a time to play the game of electoral politics–as bloody as it can get–it’s time now to put down the sword.

I’m not proud of all of my public communications–and by that I mean my expressions in newspapers, conversations and social media. I am guilty of baiting at times. I am too-easily triggered: flooded with emotions that touch on my cherished opinions.

What do I mean by “cherished opinions”? They are opinions that are no longer scrutinized, examined, or re-evaluated. As with most if not all people, I have my fair share of cherished opinions. A brief sampling right now:

  • All Republicans are misinformed at best and dangerous at worst;
  • Religious fundamentalists should not be given any kind of public platform (or tax breaks);
  • Aspirin every day is going to keep me from having a heart attack.

Actually, that last item is a good example of how cherished opinions are formed. I don’t remember what article it was on the internet. I think it was multiple medical opinions over the course of several years. But at one point, I read one particular article that suggested that an aspirin a day was going to help me avoid heart trouble later.

To me, taking one pill a day as quick as you please was a no-brainer, especially consdering that it was going to help me by such and such a percentage. So forming that opinion was great, because it required a dang easy behavior. But what has happened since that notable time, other than the fact that I’ve bought and consumed a LOT of aspirin, is that I don’t think about the truth behind the claim anymore. I just do it.

Well, guess what? Nothing . . . nothing is so simple as a cherished opinion, including aspirin as a pancea for heart trouble. In fact, taking aspirin every day has its downside. And, more pernicious than that, I’m the kind of guy (lazy) that might very quickly use my quotidian dosage of aspirin as an excuse not to do anything else for my heart, even though statistically (and congenitally) I’m prone to suffer if not die from it.

Me: I don’t have to worry about my drinking and lack of exercise.

The Universe: Why is that?

Me: I take aspirin!

My call to action here at the end of the 2016 electoral cycle and all of the knuckleheadery that’s been going on is this:

Check your Cherished Opinions

Stand Up and Be Counted

Compromise for the Benefit of the Collective

About three weeks out from Nov. 8, 2016, when the fatigue from campaign anxiety was setting in (what David Plouffe calls “bed-wetting“), my wife Cheryl and I posted a blog on Medium to try to get people to talk, in a non-partisan way, about what it means to vote one’s conscience:  “how do we distinguish the inspired voice of conscience from the prejudicial voice of our cherished but perhaps unsupported opinions?”

We got very few responses. One in fact, as of Nov. 7, 2016 . . . a very thoughtful one, I might add. But most people seemed to be finished with all of the craziness of email scandals and Trump rallies. They didn’t want to think or comment on any of it. Not in an abstract, philosophical way. We were all too busy swinging our swords.

So, to suggest something about opinion-making and opinion-checking, morality is a philosophy of equality. Therefore, to vote one’s conscience is to cast a vote for the good of one’s self and everyone else. No one should tell you not to vote your conscience. It’s not only the right thing to do but, for moral individuals, it’s the only thing you can do when you enter the voting booth. That includes strategically voting (I’m going to vote for this guy, even though I despise him, so that that candidate over there has less of a chance of winning.)

That said, here’s another claim: Conscience evolves with greater understanding. Cheryl and I used the example of slavery in America and how, arguably, the consicence of Americans did indeed evolve, which led to emancipation. And we conclude with this: “The voice of cherished opinion is a smug one. But the voice of conscience is arguably a very uncomfortable one. Conscience at work has an overwhelming tendency, it seems, to undermine certainty and to require courage.”

That’s what I mean by keeping in check one’s cherished opinions.

 

Stand Up and Be Counted

I used to teach public speaking at Westminer College in Salt Lake City, and I taught it as a civics course for a couple of reasons: first, speeches (i.e., communications or presentations) that we are familiar with as a collective tend to be based on issues of political and social concern; and, second, it doesn’t seem that we even teach civics anymore in high school or college.

My agenda with my students was this: in a democracy, not only do you have the right to express your opinion, you have the obligation to express it. For the good of The Republic. We need everyone’s voice. But we also need conscientious warrants for the arguments we make, along with a sense of the ebb and flow, the dialectic, to reference Aristotle, the author of The Rhetoric, (“the art of persuasion”) and arguably the father of communication studies.

As an aside, with the raucous surge of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump voters this year, it has occurred to me that the election cycle has been especially turbulent because there are so many newcomers to the game. The learning curve of making democracy is hard-wired, I believe, but there is a learning curve. Not that everyone who supports either of these sample candidates are neophytes, or are “uninitiated,” but many, I posit, were / are. We need to welcome them, but we also need mentor what it means to form rather than adopt opinions, especially when there’s so much at stake, as in an election.

I don’t believe it is in our best interests to eliminate any of the voices of the American people, even when they are pointed and harsh. As a country, we have our laws. For example, “fighting words” are not allowed. And our free speech tradition will always err on the side of a big tent approach to public discourse. Rightly so.

To conclude this section: we need everyone’s voice to make democracy–as messy as it is–work.

So stand up . . . and be counted. Vote.

 

Compromise for the Benefit of the Collective

If we believe that we can be blinded by our own cherished opinions, and if we believe that we have (along with everyone else) not only the right but the obligation to speak our mind, then we are more likely to see compromise, not as a four-letter word, but as the way things actually work in our world . . . arguably, the only way that things work sustainably in our world.

Our expressions of opinion, the reasons and warrants we give for those opinions, the data or “facts” that we present to support why we have come to a conclusion–the candidate we endorse and campaign for–they become a moral act. And a moral act is a sustainable act, a communal act, and social act in the best sense of the word “social.”

In this scenario of forming opinions consicously, our conscience, as evolving as it is, remains intact. We may disagree with each other, but we understand again, using the dialectical model of Aristotle, that real world behaviors–behaviors that take place in commerce, in family arrangements, in law and in politics–they are a product and a glorification if you will, of communicative acts.

This back-and-forth dynamic is how a good conversation happens, if you think about it. You and your friend get together over coffee or drinks, or a small family group gathers over dinner, and you discuss, you explore, you laugh and you ponder. You express and you hold back. You counter. You add more information, hopefully truthful information, inflected by your good will for those with whom you are communicating.

When a decision is required, you make that decision, but you do it together. You can’t do it alone. You can’t do it by edict. (I mean you can, but eventually those you’ve imposed your edict on are going to, rightly, rebel. Then we really do have a revolution, and another problem since people get hurt pretty badly in a revolution.)

So this is what I’ve been thinking of late, in between taking my aspirin every day; finding out that red wine is good for me . . . but wait . . . now it’s not; that free trade is essential to “lifting all boats” and being a bridge to the new century . . . but, wait a minute, not when it categorically risks decimating our work force; that war is always regrettable, but sometimes will happen, particularly in defense of the homeland (but not for the purposes of exploitative globalization, or getting more oil).

I’ve been thinking about this and I realize that after tomorrow–whoever wins the presidency, the Senate, the House . . . the school board, we have our work cut out for us. And you know what? It will actually be work that is gratifying. So that the next time the election season cycles back in, we’ll be more prepared for it. We’ll be more humane. We’ll be more helpful. And we will better thrive.

Check your Cherished Opinions

Stand Up and Be Counted

Compromise for the Benefit of the Collective

crisis

 

 

“Dream House” Returns to Provo as part of the Book Festival

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Pioneer Book and the Utah Humanities Book Festival present a reading and book signing in Provo of “Dream House on Golan Drive.”

I’ve given one reading in Provo. It was last winter at the Provo Public Library at Academy Square where I was flattered to have Library Director Gene Nelson show up along with so many of my friends and family.

I’m thrilled to be part of an independent bookstore on Center Street of the city I grew up in, and which is the setting for this novel.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Utah Humanities Book Festival, it is Utah’s signature literary event, currently celebrating its 19th year. As a program officer at Utah Humanities, I was the Director of the festival for two years in 2010 and 2011 and was able to help it make the statewide festival that it is today.

Check out all of the amazing authors, including one my favorites Jonathan Lethem, who will be in the Beehive State in September/October this year.

And please join us Oct. 6, 2016 at 5:30 pm at Pioneer Book, 450 West Center Street in Provo.
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DREAM HOUSE at the SLC Sunstone Symposium, July 27-30, 2016

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I’ve had a long history with the Sunstone Symposium where I’ve spoken often on everything from theater and Mormonism to temple marriages; and from self-hating Mormons to a reading of my play “Hydrogen Bond” with TheatreWorks West. (You can hear podcasts of some of these appearances here.)

I’ve also had some essays published in the magazine, on topics ranging from the persistence of polygamy to a personal essay about returning to my missionary stomping grounds in New England as a “post-Mormon.”

This year’s event is at the Olpin Union Center on the University of Utah campus, and I’m pleased to report that I’ve been invited to do a book signing with authors JUDITH FREEMAN, author of “Red Water” and (most recently) the memoir of growing up in Ogden, UT, “The Latter Days”; and author DUANE JENNINGS, (“Stumbling Blocks and Stepping-Stones: Including Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Children of God in the LDS Plan of Salvation”)

This year’s symposium theme is

Many Mormonisms and the Mormon Movement

“The restoration tradition is a large spectrum of complicated and diverse groups, theologies, cultures, and practices. We invite proposals exploring the different traditions within and around Mormonism, celebrating a rich history and a global church. What does Mormonism mean to you? How do you claim your Mormon roots?”

Join us outside the Symposium bookstore where Benchmark Books will be vending “Dream House on Golan Drive.” I would be happy to personalize your copy. 

Sunstone

 

 

“As you sit by the pool or under a shade tree this summer, why not pick up a book written by one of our own? These University of Utah grads and profs have written about everything from their personal experience with dating to the history of tequila.”

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Geez…maybe I should renew my membership to UofU Alumni.

Thanks to Continuum Magazine for listing DREAM HOUSE ON GOLAN DRIVE as a “good summer read.”

Proud to be a graduate of the University of Utah (Class of 94, MA) and to be listed along with Paul Ketzle and his debut novel THE LATE MATTHEW BROWN.

READ MORE here

 

“Dream House” Reading & Book Signing in Ogden, Apr. 19, 2016

weberWeber State University (WSU) in Ogden, Utah will host me at reading / book signing April 19 at 6:00 pm at the university library (Hetzel-Hoellein Room)

Peterson twoWeber State is where the godfather of Mormon Lit Levi S. Petersen worked for many years as a professor of English. Dream House on Golan Drive is not unlike Petersen’s magnum opus The Backslider, as one reviewer ofDream House, Eric Samuelsen, has noted: both are about two young Mormon men, one rural (in the case of Backslider) and one suburban/urban (in the case of Dream House). Both are pretty addled by the community and religion of their childhood, and both get a surprising visit by an otherworldly being at the end of both.

backslider2

The only creative writing class I ever took was at WSU (then known as Weber State College) from Petersen. I had already graduated from college, but took the drive up three times a week (or was it two?) from Provo to Ogden. Later, as editor of Dialogue magazine, he first accepted then declined my first short story “American Trinity,” the genesis of the narrator in Dream House on Golan Drive. I won’t go into the little drama around that flip flop (perhaps another time), but eventually, when the new editor Kristine Haglund came on board, “Trinity” saw the light of day and eventually won two awards, including one from Dialogue as their best short story of 2011.

In the now-defunct journal Irreantum, where I was a sections editor for 5 years, my byline appeared over a review of Peterson’s excellent autobiography published by the University of Utah Press. You can read that here (scroll down to page 233).

I feel privileged to visit as a guest reader at the same institution where Peterson lived and worked before retiring to Oregon. I would like to think Peterson, who is elderly now, would be proud.

 

Reading & Signing in Zion Canyon, March 21, 2016

zion canyon

Zion National Park is one of the most stunning and one of the most visited National Parks in the American Southwest. Zarts has invited me to read from and sign copies of Dream House on Golan Drive on Monday, March 21, 2016. I hope you can join me as it’s not far from St. George, Kanab and other populated areas of the Mormon Corridor . . . even Las Vegas.

And even if you’re not Mormon, I hope you’ll come as Dream House is really about what someone from a tight-knit religious community does when he finally figures out he doesn’t fit in. Jewish, protestant, Catholic or Muslim . . . I really think you’ll be able to identify with the main character. And . . . (how’s the sales pitch thus far?), if you’ve grown up “gentile” (meaning “non-Mormon,” offensive as that word is) in Utah or the Mountain West, you’ll be able to “get” much of what the book is saying about the civilizing force that religion has played in this region.

I’m especially grateful to Zarts for promoting literature in the St. George / Zions Park area. Culturally, there’s a lot going on here, including Emmy Award Winning Red Rock Rondo‘s Zion Canyon Song Cycle, Hal Cannon (also of Red Rock Rondo) with his new desert music group 3HatTrio, which recently partnered with Repertory Dance Theatre where I work full-time in Salt Lake City on a new work. (Ever hear of western folk music tinged with reggae? That’s 3HatTrio).

It’s also home to Teresa Jordan (Hals’ significant other) whose most recent book A Year of Living Dangerously (Weekends Off), is a recent winner of the 2015 Utah Book Award. The collection of essays, many of which stem from her blog of the same title, is a wonderful meditation on virtue as it applies (or doesn’t) to contemporary life . . . a life worth examining.

Hope to see you in red rock country on March 21!

7:00 PM
Canyon Community Center
Springdale, UT
(
Turn on Lion Blvd., go past Town Hall)

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Reading at Artisans Gallery in Cedar City, March 22, 2016

Artisans SUU I’m thrilled to be invited by Southern Utah University (SUU) to read from and sign copies of Dream House on Golan Drive in Cedar City. The event takes place at 5:00 pm at Artisans Gallery on Center St. (You’ll still be able to make it to your caucus meetings by 6!)

Cedar City is “Festival City,” the home not only of SUU but of the Tony-Award Winning and world-renowned Utah Shakespeare Festival.
USF

As a former theater critic, I have many, many fond memories of the Festival and Cedar City, in fact they both appear as a setting in Dream House, including when Riley borrows his friend’s Edsel, an antique car with a tortured history, and takes his soon-to-be-wife Dina to an outdoor production of Twelfth Night. They get engaged almost immediately afterward. Cedar is also the site of where Lucy, the important friend and mentor to Riley, is visited by “Zed,” the narrator of Dream House and one of the ancients from Book of Mormon lore.

Another memory is being invited as a high school student to the first annual High School Shakespeare competition back in the 70s. I played Oberon, King of the Faeries from A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a scene with Martha Nibley (now Martha Beck) who would later write a devastating memoir of her experience growing up in Provo titled Leaving the Saints. (I reviewed her book, much to the consternation of some, in the now defunct Irreantum [scroll to pg. 82]) where I was a sections editor for 5 years. Beck is now a columnist for O Magazine.

I’m fortunate to have friends in Cedar and SUU, including Darrell Spencer, the brilliant short story writer and professor who blurbed Dream House, and Danielle Beazer Dubrasky, a friend from my BYU days, now an SUU professor herself and a fabulous poet whose most recent chapbook is titled Ruin and Light. You can read a review by fellow Utah poet Jennifer Tonge of Dani’s collection here.

I’d love to have you join us in Cedar City on March 22!

Book Reading & Signing, Spring Glen (Helper, UT), Apr. 22, 2016, 7 pm

Crandall Canyon Mine

Spring Glen is a tiny town near Price, Utah in Carbon County. This is coal country, an area decidedly not originally part of “The Corridor” in Utah. That there’s a beautiful, historic Greek Orthodox Church there is a testament to the immigrant population, Greek and otherwise, who settled here as miners at the turn of the 20th Century.

I’m being hosted to read from and sign copies of Dream House on Golan Drive by Nancy Takacs, poet and former professor at Utah State University-Price (formerly the College of Eastern Utah) and friend and sculptor Karen Templeton. In fact the reading, a pairing with poet Danielle Dubrasky, will take place in one of the more unusual artist’s studios ever. Made of straw bales and mud, the two-story structure houses Karen’s expansive space where she works magic out of clay and bronze.

The Crandall Canyon Mine in nearby Huntington was the site of a horrible accident in 2007. The mine made headline news when six miners were trapped by a collapse in August of that year. Ten days later, three rescue workers were killed by a subsequent collapse. The six miners were later declared dead and their bodies were never recovered.

TempletonKaren was commissioned to create the memorial for this tragic event. She knew that the six bodies would never be recovered and that the families of the dead would never be able to see or touch them again. The bronze memorial in town is of the nine men, accessible enough for any and all to stroke the faces in effigy of those who so tragically died.

I’m honored to be reading with Danielle, my long-time friend (we met in college), a professor at Southern Utah University and an exceptional, big-hearted poet whose most recent chapbook Ruin and Light she will read from.

Danielle Beazer Dubrasky, Poet

Danielle Beazer Dubrasky, Poet

See you in Carbon County at Templeton Studios, 3732 N 2000 W, Helper, UT 7:00 pm

Postscript: Thanks for a terrific event in Spring Glen!

L to r: Karen Templeton, Danielle Dubrasky, Nancy Takacs, David Pace

L to r: Karen Templeton, Danielle Dubrasky, Nancy Takacs, David Pace