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The Scholar of Moab Paperback – November 8, 2011
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Steven Peck has imagined a world ever-so-slightly tweaked from this real one, butwell, why wouldn’t conjoined twins have an independent consciousness, bumblebees be more dependent on faith than wings, and Einstein sing German nursery rhymes? The Scholar of Moab explores the otherworld of nature, imagination, and mind.”
—Brooke Williams, Halflives: Reconciling Work and Wildness
"It’s satire of the best sort: biting what it loves, snuggling up to what it hates."
—Scott Abbott, Professor of Philosophy and Humanities, Director of Integrated Studies, Utah Valley University
"Peck moves easily from the lyrical to the grotesque, and sets his multi-voiced tale in the ideal place: Moab, Utah--where red rocks and surprising arches provide the ideal backdrop for anything in or out of the world, including space ships and kidnapped babies."
—Margaret Blair Young, President: Association for Mormon Letters
"Peck convincingly merges the genre of magical realism with American West fiction by invoking the power of personal testimonynot his own, but by presenting the recorded testimony of his characters in letters, journals, poetry, and interview transcripts. Using these disparate voices, Peck concocts a strange and tragicomic brew of naivety, philosophy, faith, discovery, and loss."
—Blair Dee Hodges, Standing on the Promises, The Association for Mormon Letters
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Top Customer Reviews
It doesn't read like your typical novel. The story is told by an unnamed "Redactor" who finds a crazy collection of documents in some old curmudgeon's trailer buried under a "mountain of filth and garbage." These documents include a journal by a dead fellow named Hyrum Thayne, a scientific article on "bumblebee faith," a photograph of cowboy conjoined twins, letters and poetry by a nature lover named Dora Tanner, leftovers from a dismantled Webster's dictionary, and other odds and ends. From this hodgepodge the Redactor pieces together clues about Hyrum Thayne's rise to scholarly heights, and his ultimately explosive death. (Not a spoiler, don't worry.)
The main document of the story is Hyrum Thayne's journal. I laughed out loud so many times as Hyrum expressed his frustrations in his own terribly-misspelled words. The other documents are striking in their individuality. How did Peck manage to capture so many diverse voices so convincingly? For instance, letters from the Babcock's(the conjoined twins) relate their cowboy exploits, as well as their eventual Ivy league education. One brother slowly slips into mental illness while the other helplessly witnesses his brother's descent.
This is the most engaging Mormon novel I've read since Levi Peterson's "The Backslider," though its approach is radically different. Peck convincingly merges the genres of magical realism and American West fiction by invoking the power of personal testimony--not his own, but those of his characters through their letters, journals, poetry, and interview transcripts. Using these disparate voices, Peck concocts a strange and tragicomic brew of naivety, philosophy, faith, discovery, and loss.
Just as appealing is that the novel is prototypically Mormon. It subtly captures the real world materialism of Mormon thought and practice without elevating Mormon themes in any explicit or overtly recognizable way. The main character and some of his inner circle are Mormons, yet Peck deploys Mormonism through the very structure of his narrative delivery, through a redactor who recovers long-buried documents and "translates" them by assembling them in such a way that multiple stories are revealed. This immanent yet all-encompassing material deployment of the quintessential American religion makes The Scholar of Moab perhaps the epitome of the Mormon novel. Its saturated encyclopedism claims the essence of the Neo-Baroque in American literature. The novel is both thoroughly enjoyable and more than capable of being a worthy object of American literary studies.
The Scholar of Moab follows Hyrum Thayne, an unlearned deep-thinking Moabite with a lot of time on his hands, who, after much study and contemplation to determine the meaning of “Dickensian life,” feels called to become a grand scholar. But Hyrum immediately runs into practical problems. He can’t quite keep up with the obscure sesquipedalian vocabulary of scholarly conversation, and he isn’t comfortable standing for as long as it takes to look up all the words he needs to learn from the library dictionary, which he is not allowed to remove from the pedestal and read on the couch. So, Hyrum concocts a flawless plan: break into the library early Sunday morning, steal the dictionary, and cover his tracks by burning half the library’s resource books and spray-painting communist graffiti on the wall.
This sets off a firestorm of rumor about town. Before church, the citizenry has already concluded that the communists have joined forces with the ghosts of the Gadianton Robbers--a gang of thieving and murdering baddies of Book of Mormon fame--to scourge their town. Not long after, the town folk also conclude through revelation that only Hyrum can save them from the inscrutable, bloodthirsty double-menace.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is one of the most interesting works of fiction I have ever read. I thought reading various documents to patch a story together would be tedious. It was not. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Brian
I first read this book when it came out back at the end of 2011. My brother just borrowed it and it caused me to look again at this great book. Read morePublished 14 months ago by S. Waters
I enjoyed reading this book and I ought to give it 5 stars, but I'm unsure what to make of it. Steven Peck is an evolutionary biologist, an associate professor at BYU where I... Read morePublished on May 19, 2014 by Michael Shea
Quirky characters in an environment similar to that in which I grew up. My nephew recommended it to me as a good read.Published on March 4, 2014 by Clair Bjerregaard
I'm sure part of the reason I loved this novel is because I'm a Utahn and find the culture fascinating and lovely, and Steven does an amazing job at capturing that culture. Read morePublished on September 11, 2013 by HilaryB
Stecen L. Peck delivers like a Mormon Christopher Moore (see: Sacre Bleu, for example). So how does one create chaos in a quiet Southern Utah Mormon community? Read morePublished on August 22, 2013 by Gerald S. Argetsinger
The Scholar of Moab is a book unlike any I've ever read before. I'm a huge fan of Steven L. Peck's novella, A Short Stay in Hell (read that for sure) and purchased this because of... Read morePublished on March 30, 2013 by Paul Genesse
But much of it escapes me. I come from the same sub-culture as the author (not from Southeastern Utah), so I get the inside jokes and sarcasm up to a point. But not 5 stars-worth.Published on December 23, 2012 by PEDAGOGUE