Melissa Proffitt Melissa at
Tue Mar 18 14:36:42 EST 2003

On Mon, 17 Mar 2003 17:01:45 -0700, Robyn Starkey wrote:

>I'm finding this discussion of his change as a writer interesting because I 
>have only read one of his books, the Sarah one (or the first Sarah one, if 
>there are more). I found the book readable but dull. The story of Sarah and 
>Hagar has been retold a lot by feminist writers because they obviously find 
>some interesting root ideas and conflicts in it. One of the best versions I 
>have read is a short story by Sarah Maitland in her collection "Book of 
>Spells". I highly recommend the whole book, actually. There's also, I 
>think, a whole short story collection by various authors which is all 
>retellings of Sarah's story. Anyway, my reaction to  Card's book was that 
>given there were so many good and interesting literary versions around, I 
>didn't really understand what he was doing from a writerly perspective with 
>such a straight (if not pedestrian) retelling. This is quite aside from 
>whatever personal or religious reasons he might have had.

My understanding is that it was entirely for religious reasons rather than
literary ones.  The books (_Rebekah_ is the second; don't know the third)
are published by a Church-owned publisher and are basically fictional
versions of scripture, including peculiarly Mormon interpretations.  So his
interpretation of Sarah's character is strongly informed by the need to stay
close to a doctrinal perspective, while elaborating on elements of the story
that are not provided in scripture.  It does make for very dull reading...I
liked the second one better, which is more controversial.

You also have to understand that there is a sizeable population of LDS
readers who will not read anything that doesn't bear some kind of official
stamp of approval, like for example being published by the Mormon church.
Such books have historically been tepid, bland, and inoffensive, and it is
only recently that books with even a smattering of literary content are
becoming available through that outlet.  Card's "Women of Genesis" series is
groundbreaking in that respect; consider the effect on men and women whose
literary experience is almost exactly zero.  Further consider that this
publisher didn't even produce fiction until about thirty years ago, because
it was a given that fiction wouldn't sell in the Mormon market.

Anyway, that's likely what was going on with _Sarah_.  The intent was
completely different from that of the feminist writers who've probably done
much more interesting things with the dynamic.

And don't tell anyone what I just said about the Mormon market and its
readers.  I'm trying to be even-handed and understanding about the whole

Melissa Proffitt

If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning.

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