Sunday, March 20, 2011

What is Patrick Mason reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Patrick Q. Mason, author of The Mormon Menace: Violence and Anti-Mormonism in the Postbellum South.

His entry begins:
The only good thing about flying these days is that, if you are lucky, you can read a good book. Fortunately, before my travel ordeal last week I had picked up The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, a book sufficiently slim to read on most flights. By the end of it, I had an argument with the title—the protagonist, in my view, is more a reluctant nationalist or resistance fighter than a fundamentalist per se—but that was about my only quibble with it.

In the literature on the American Civil War, there has blossomed a cottage industry of titles on the question of why soldiers fought. The same is increasingly true of our post-9/11 setting, as people try to get into the various minds of terrorists, religious extremists, and—dare I include them in the same sentence—American neocons and military personnel.

Hamid’s book meets the mark of excellent fiction. It features engaging and realistic characters in a complex but accessible world presented by captivating (and often captivatingly simple) prose. It builds steadily, and subtly, to a genuinely suspenseful ending. The narrative is touchingly humane, far less about politics than about an authentic, human, and tragic love story. But it also wrestles, as intelligently and incisively as almost anything I’ve read, with the question of—to use President Bush’s formulation—...[read on]
Among the early praise for The Mormon Menace:
"Written with flair and intelligence, this book finds large themes in the activity of Mormon itinerant ministers in the late 19th-century American South and provides new and valuable insights about religion and violence, second generation Mormonism, and postbellum white culture in the American South. Patrick Mason, one of the best of the new generation of LDS scholars, uses the case study of Mormon missionaries to look at the post-Civil War American South. He takes another step in the increasing maturity of Mormon studies, as old and narrow views are replaced with mainstream methods and ideas. He gives his topic a fresh look, and the result is a valuable new view of the Mormon role in the American experience. Mormonism becomes a case study for studying the values, religion, and violence of the postbellum American South."
--Ronald Walker, author of Massacre at Mountain Meadows

"Patrick Mason tells an adventurous and violent story in this account of Mormon lynchings in the nineteenth-century South. His careful dissection of these bloody events leads us deep into the southern mentality and the contentious images of Mormonism in America. He finds the southern experience even reshaped Mormonism's view of itself. No reader will come away from this book feeling entirely comfortable."
--Richard Bushman, Gouverneur Morris Professor of History, Emeritus, Columbia University

"A deeply researched, clearly written analysis of an almost unknown aspect of southern and religious history. It fills an important gap in scholarship and by so doing illuminates a wide variety of interpretative issues in both fields. This perceptive and creatively conceived study should be widely read and the author applauded for realizing the significance of a hitherto neglected topic."
--John Boles, William P. Hobby Professor of History, Rice University
Learn more about The Mormon Menace at the Oxford University Press website and visit Patrick Q. Mason's faculty webpage.

Mason is Research Associate Professor at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, and Associate Director for Research of an interdisciplinary research initiative entitled Contending Modernities: Catholic, Muslim, Secular.

The Page 99 Test: The Mormon Menace.

Writers Read: Patrick Q. Mason.

--Marshal Zeringue