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Glowing review in Philadelphia Inquirer for new book.

October 26, 2012

The Philadelphia Inquirer printed this glowing review of Jane’s book on August 26, 2012:

Digging into the roots of Mormonism

   Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon religion, was undeniably a fascinating character during a brief lifetime (1805-1844) that ended when he was murdered by a hateful mob of non-Mormons. Smith’s legacy continues to fascinate, perhaps especially right now with a Mormon seeking the presidency of the United States as the Republican candidate.
   It turns out that Jane Barnes (born 1942), a novelist, essayist, and documentary film script writer, is just as fascinating as the subject of her new book. Well, “subjects,” not just the singular noun. The book Barnes has written is difficult to classify. At the very least, however, it focuses equally on two people: Smith and herself, making it part biography and part autobiography. The book is endlessly captivating, and ought to appeal to readers whether they are Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics – or Mormons. Part of the appeal is Barnes’ skill as a writer. She is inventive with language, but that inventiveness never strays into puzzlement for readers. You can bet I will dip into her two published novels (Double Lives and I, Krupskaya: My Life with Lenin) when I can find the time. Maybe they are as well written as this new book and if they are, I want to experience them.
   Although Falling in Love with Joseph Smith is about religious faith, Barnes does not try to nudge anybody toward belief in the divine, nor toward nonbelief. As a religious studies professor tells her, “Faith has nothing to do with intelligence. If you believe, there will always be people smarter than you who don’t. If you don’t believe, there are always people smarter than you who do.”
   The founding narrative of all organized religions seems peculiar when analyzed according to logic; to many who have studied the founding narratives, the Mormon faith seems the most peculiar of all: an uneducated young man nearly 2,000 years after Jesus Christ finding gold plates on a hillside in Upstate New York, discerning that the plates contained commandments from God, and then translating the commandments into English? Really?
   Then Smith organizes believers to follow him all the way to Independence, Mo., because they accept his premise that it is somehow akin to a promised land. When Missouri turns out to be unaccepting, the believers willingly relocate to Nauvoo, Ill., where again they encounter violence, so they trek to Utah despite the indescribable hard ships. Really?
   Mark Twain skewered Mormonism in his writings – some of which Barnes quotes – and so have many other influential commentators. (Barnes brilliantly compares Joseph Smith at times to the Twain characters Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.) Yet despite the Twains of the earth, Mormonism has grown from a goofy sounding practice into a worldwide religion, and the growth continues.
   Barnes learned the Mormon dogma well while researching the foundation of the faith – and its many offshoots, a few of them grounded in violence – for a Public Broadcasting System documentary. She found herself attracted to Smith’s teachings, his passion for life, his breaking of social conventions as well as religious conventions.
   Reared as a secular Episcopalian within a prominent American family, Barnes broke away from the family’s expectations and was already experimenting with different faiths by the time she encountered Smith’s eventful life and death. Barnes had given birth to children spawned during a heterosexual marriage, had entered a committed same-gender relationship later, and then had entered an apparent Platonic relationship with a male even though his death-to-come from Parkinson’s disease freaked her out. Barnes’ various forms of published writing contained experimental elements, too. Even her entry into the television documentary realm during 2003 that led her to research Smith’s life derived from Barnes’ relentless exploration. And her quest for the right mix of spirituality in her daily life made Barnes open to Smith’s journey without making overly quick judgments.
   “Meeting the early Joseph fresh in middle age was like drinking from the fountain of youth,” Barnes comments. “I was smitten by the boastful boy who looked into magic stones to track treasure chests zooming around beneath the earth … Joseph’s holy fairy tale seemed like a gospel written by Mark Twain.” Part of the mystery surrounding Barnes as she explores the mysteries of Smith is why she would seriously consider becoming a Mormon. After all, she is a bisexual feminist examining a religion that excludes women from leadership roles and opposes gay marriage. Barnes does not dodge those seeming anomalies in the book, to her credit.

   Steve Weinberg is a member of the National Book Critics Circle and an explorer of organized religions who currently identifies as an evangelical agnostic. He has known several devout Mormons well.

Jane Barnes appears on Culture Shocks with Barry Lynn

October 26, 2012

On August 24, Jane Barnes appeared on Rev. Barry Lynn’s talk show, Culture Shocks. Broadcast to the Genesis Communications Network, you can catch the show on a number of radio stations. For a listing of radio stations that carry the show, visit the Culture Shocks website.

To download and listen to Jane’s interview, go to this link: Jane’s interview with Rev. Barry Lynn

“Jane Barnes, offers a surprising and provocative window into the Mormon experience.”

Book reviews for Falling in Love with Joseph Smith

September 4, 2012

Jane Barnes book Falling in Love with Joseph Smith has inspired a flurry of reviews from critics and readers.

Here is some of the buzz being generated by her work:

“…Barnes’s love affair with Joseph Smith is complicated, not diminishable into sound bites. I understand it viscerally.” – Jana Riess, author of Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor.

 

“…what could be more freshly scandalous than an East Coast liberal embarking on a serious flirtation with Mormonism? Barnes’s fascination with Smith sends her on a religious and genealogical journey.” – Mythili Rao, writer for Hot Reads segment on The Daily Beast

 

“…if you want to get a good sense of Smith and the controversial religion he created, this book is a good place to start.” – Bill Tammeus, former Faith columnist for The Kansas City Star

 

Falling in Love with Joseph Smith is a funny, poignant, philosophical book that anyone with a spiritual bone will relate to.” – Goodreads.com

 

“…a rare find. The book is part memoir and part historical yet they cannot be separated. The reason I found this book so wonderful is that the author has no agenda.” – Nancy of A Musing Reviews blog

Upcoming book release 8/1/12

April 21, 2012
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Falling in Love with Joseph Smith will be available on August 1, 2012 at your book store. But you may now go pre-order it Amazon.com.