Learning thru Literature, pt. 1

Kramer Wetzel

Learning thru Literature, pt. 1

I follow a serendipitous route, let my fingers and natural curiosity lead me where it might. That’s how I stumbled into a book called Hayduke Lives! It was commercial, mass-market, cross-genre mainstream fiction that was a follow-up to the epic ecological hit, the Monkey Wrench Gang. Read the second, then the first. Think I’d seen some of his other material, possibly in a survey class, but I’m not sure.

What stuck with me? There was a “Jack Mormon” character, adhered to the faith, in part, kind of had two wives, but didn’t follow all the rules. Plus, as a character in novels set in the great American West? Perhaps a little larger than life.

The jack Mormon character, can’t remember his name, his loyalties, or anything else, but I recall his sporadic adherent to his faith. In the last years I was living in Arizona, I finally succumbed to the marketing hype and entertained a pair of Mormon missionaries for a short spell. Didn’t really resonate with me, but I admired their drive, bicycling around in 100-degree heat, wearing a tie, calling on possible converts to their faith.

The final leg in this triangle? A kid was contracted to clean the carpets at the house — no other details. When it was done, he sat with us, had a smoke, and talked about his life, asked for a beer, how he was Mormon, too, and the two years spent on, in, doing? Not sure the turn of phrase, but the two years spent in service to his faith were some of the best years of his life.

The short version, he got married, and was raising his kids in the church, but he was now an outsider because he liked to smoke and drink, but he was also a loving, doting, devoted farther — and husband. Pictures of a lovely women who he claimed as his wife. Just one wife. No Mormon jokes.

Learning thru Literature, pt. 1

The first take away point? My backwards approach, reading the sequel, first, and then diving into the original. This was also my exposure to that brand of faith. Heard about it, there was a huge presence at the time in the East Valley, and I was casually curious.

The character in the book was what sold it. Nailed it. Made it work. Just words on a page, but enigmatic, realistic, and sparkling with verisimilitude.

Entertaining, accepting their book, and trying to read it, never got far, but at least giving it a spin? That helped, too. Plus watching then hearing about the dedication of spending two years, right out of high school, doing something for their church.

This is about the church that is located, I think, in Salt Lake City, none of the cult-like derivative cultures.

My exposure was through a book, then several, then talking, and finally, the kid, sitting and chatting about what he liked, and how he was OK with not being in his church’s inner circle.

He was headed for the suburbs of Mormon heaven, as I understand now.

The rest of it was about interpreting the meaning of faith and how one chooses to use that in everyday life.

I got there by reading books — maybe not “literature” — but books, nonetheless.

Learning thru Literature, pt. 1

But another point? How accurate was Edward Abbey’s version of the Colorado River?

Learning thru Literature, pt. 1

Hayduke Lives!

Monkey Wrench Gang