Immortal For Quite Some Time

[book forthcoming with the University of Utah Press]

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My brother John died of AIDS in 1991 at the age of forty. The most surprising thing I learned as I began to write about him was that you can’t describe your brother without describing yourself. And that can be uncomfortable, especially if you are a heterosexual, practicing Mormon.

Immortal For Quite Some Time is a work of what I call “fraternal meditation.” The book shares the fragmented structure of Peter Handke’s A Sorrow Beyond Dreams, a self-conscious struggle to write about his mother after her suicide, and of Susan Griffin’s remarkable investigation into the violent public and private consequences of silence, A Chorus of Stones. In fits and starts I sketch my versions of a lonely, funny, talented, hard-luck, bisexual, ex-Mormon and his ostensibly more stable brother. The former has no choice but to suffer this outing at the hands of his brother. And the latter, although he can choose what he discloses about himself, risks radical redefinition of a self constructed according to LDS guidelines by devout LDS parents.

Wary of triumphant narratives that celebrate a writer’s courageous escape from a repressive culture, I add to my first-person account a critical female voice that questions my assertions and ridicules my rhetoric, creating a dialectical structure that distinguishes my book from others I know. Curious about photographs and their possible roles in biography, I employ them at arm’s length. Missing my brother, I move from the cold vision of autopsy to direct conversation during the book’s final sections.

The LDS Church has been an active supporter of so-called “defense of marriage” initiatives in Hawaii, Alaska, and California. My book invites readers into the intimate workings of a secure, warm-hearted, educated, sweetly racist and homophobic LDS family, at least one member of which might have lived better and longer in a society that recognized gay marriages.

A very early version of this work won first prize for “Book Manuscript, Creative Non-Fiction” in the Utah Arts Council 1994 Original Writing Competition. Three sections of the manuscript have been published in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought (Spring 2011, Fall 2011, and Spring 2013), one part in saltfront (Winter 2015), and one piece in Irreantum (Nr. 1, 2005).

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