Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Don't Judge a Book by its Terrible Writing

Anyone that has taken a creative writing class anytime in the last decade or so has probably had a few ideas drilled into them: Show, don't tell; sense of place, consistent characterization, "Kill your darlings," etc. When a reader starts Nephi Anderson's Added Upon, it becomes immediately apparent that this book was not only written in a different century (1898 to be exact), but would have benefited from a more thought-out, more skilled authorial hand. 

While trying to teach the beliefs Latter-Day Saints in regards to living before and after our time on earth, Anderson writes with a style that is overly obvious and painfully amateur. In fact, I would not have survived part one of the book had I not been required to read it. So, moral of the story? Steer clear of this book and save yourself a little agony, right? Actually, no.

Sharing feelings and testimony of God is deeply embedded into the culture of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and it was clear, that in his own flawed way, that's just what  Anderson is doing in this novel. After muddling through the first pages (and I did have to muddle!), I felt the less than masterful writing added a sense of sincerity to the text. As I approached the novel this way, I began to care about the characters, their lives, and what they were trying to accomplish. I appreciated seeing different views of our beliefs in both the characters and the overall novel. We may be one church, but we are made up of individuals, and we have different perspectives and approaches to our gospel understanding. I felt that in this novel. We all try hard, but no one's perfect. That I felt that in this novel as I forgave the awful writing again and again.

No, this book is not a nice piece of brain candy to gobble up on a sunny afternoon. But it is thought-provoking—even more so because of its flaws. I'm surprised to tell you that (in a painful sort of way) I actually enjoyed this book.


  1. I would agree that this is one of the most well-developed testimonies ever written . . . in length. But even so, I wonder if a different format would have strengthened the content presentation because fiction carries expectations and artistry, both of which this testimony/story (no matter how sincere) lacked.

  2. I agree with what you said about sincerity--I'm glad you were able to put your finger on what it was, because I hadn't been able to. Will I read this book again? No. Am I sorry I read it? Absolutely not. (Oh--I also loved your term "brain candy" a lot!)

  3. I mean I won't judge you that you liked the book only because you used the word painfully. ;) I agree when you said you appreciate the different view. I did as well but in a different way. I appreciated it because it challenged me to the the doctrinal answers Added Upon made me question. It is funny how a book can help you in so many different ways.