|And artist's view of the riverfront of Westport, Connecticut the primary setting for "Closing Circles: Trapped In The Everlasting Mormon Moment"|
February 14, 2012
Over the course of copyediting the manuscript for R.B. Scott’s first novel -- Closing Circles: Trapped In The Everlasting Mormon Moment – early readers/critics/editors put a number of tough questions to the author. Excerpts from these candid email and telephone exchanges follow:
Why now? I am a very slow writer. Actually, the process began as I left Time years ago. Technically, Closing Circles has been unfolding and revising since about 1983. The last in the series – Leaving West Perish – got underway in 1987; the third in series – working title Play It As It Lies: A daughter, her father and the rub of the green – was born in the mid 1993; working title Quad Pratt: Prince of New England, Lord of Star Valley, began emerging in 2007; and the second in the series, The Mending: A life too well remembered sprang to life around 2003.
In long, I was not propelled into writing novels by some age-related crisis or crushing melancholia. Nor did I wake-up one morning and decide to write a novel. Initially, my goal was to publish Closing Circles in the 1990s as the “Mormon Moment” began to unfold. The delay makes the novel all the more timely. It ties into events that are current in 2012 – the presidential elections, which featured two Mormon candidates – Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney. Along the way it touches on the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and the dot-com bubble of the 1990s and associated turmoil.
My recent biography MITT ROMNEY: An Inside Look At The Man And His Politics , released in late November of 2011, was critical to the process in that it provided (is providing) many opportunities to promote both books. It is complementary to Closing Circles and vice versa.
I remember an intense late night discussion with good friends --we were boys then, teenagers -- about sex and puberty and all that. The conversation turned into a kind of confessional about masturbation. Each guy got a chance to fess up. I got to go last because I was the host. Guys were saying blush blush, “oh, uh, um I tried it once, but that was it and I repented.” And, on and on it went and then it was my turn. By then I needed hip waders to get through the B.S. I said something deflective like: “ummm, well, ummm I don’t have anything to add.” What I really wanted to: ‘you must be kidding!!!” I thought I was even weirder than I imagined I was already. So, I wanted to write in a way that would encourage personal honesty, connect with readers, most of whom once felt weird themselves and dealt with similar circumstances. We all have our war stories!
If young people read it, I hope the messages they take away include: you're not weird, be honest with yourself, adolesence is tough on everyone who every lived even --perhaps especially -- your parents, acquiring self-control is useful but acquiring self-confidence is more important.
Some of my interest in Judaism comes from Jewish friends in school. Some comes from caddying for really good Jewish men at The Country Club—the one in Salt Lake City. And, of course, some of it comes from my experiences in New York City and Westport, Connecticut, a town unlike most in Fairfield County. Uniquely, Westport was open to Jews way back in the bad old days when Jews were excluded from some of the WASPier towns of Connecticut.Also, I could not pass up the “almost, but not quite accepted” feelings and insecurities that run through both cultures. There are other cultural similarities too like the very tribal Mormon-Gentile and the Jewish-goyim tensions. These are powerful things. Mormonism is a religion, but like Judaism it too has spawned a cohesive and distinct culture( I am not so sure about coherent! Just kidding). The Mormon culture -- Mormons as an ethnic group-- was there from the beginning. It intensified over the years. I suspect that will continue to be the case. Right now we are seeing the emergence of people who self-identify as Mormons but are not deeply religious. No doubt there will be more as time goes on. Mormons are also doctrinally connected to Judaism and Jerusalem in ways that go beyond what one finds in most other Christian denominations.