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Avi—Dude—You're Gay; Figure It Out

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 Reading Avi Steinberg's The Lost Book of Mormon: A Journey Through the Mythic Lands of Nephi, Zarahemla, and Kansas City, Missouri

(In Which Our Intrepid Blogger Proposes Marriage—Well, Kind Of—to a Man He's Never Met)

 

Avi Steinberg is on a quest. He's in search of his identity.

Well, there's nothing more American than that. Jewish, born in Israel, grew up in Cleveland...oh, an intellectual, and a writer. Of course he's in search of an identity.

Where better than to look than among the Mormons, right?

Avi's marriage (to a woman) isn't working, and he's running away from it by going on his quest. The good news: in the end Avi actually does manage to find his identity. The bad: I'm not quite sure that he realizes that he's found it.

I love Avi (me, I'd marry him any day), I love his writing, and I love his book. The book's central (really rather belabored) metaphor: writer as prophet, book as scripture. Who better to act as Dantean guide than that all-American prophet/shyster-cum-novelist Joseph Smith himself, with his fake Bible of gold plates, the Book of Mormon?

It's a quest, it's a romp, it's a meditation on the re-enchantment of landscape. Avi signs up with a Mormon tour group to see the “original” locations of the Book of Mormon events in Central America and Mexico. Then he travels to Palmyra, New York for an abortive appearance in the annual Hill Cumorah Pageant. Last of all he ends up in the Mormon Eden of Kansas City, Missouri.

I started to wonder during his account of the casting of the pageant, with its breathless descriptions of beefcake.

I kept wondering through his description about stripping down to his briefs along with his fellow actors.

But I was sure when I got to the epilogue.

Avi goes to Kansas City, Missouri to check out Mormon Eden. (That's what J. S. Jr. said: the Biblical Garden of Eden, right here in the American Midwest.) At a reading there, he meets 19-year-old Kyle, a sun-burned, blue-eyed, silver blonde. The all-American boy of his dreams: red, white, and blue, no less. Kyle is “touchingly skinny” and it immediately becomes clear to Avi that the two of them are going to have dinner.

And then travel to Eden together.

Back at Kyle's place, Avi watches enthralled as his new friend strips down completely to throw his clothes into the washing machine. The page-long description of Kyle's strip-tease is one of the sexiest pieces of writing that I've had the good fortune to read in years.

He peeled off his boxers, tossing them into the washing machine, and stood before me in the heroic nude, this heedless youth of Missouri.

Woof, woof.

The book ends on a happy note: Avi's personal letter to Kyle, aspiring writer, about the mysteries of writing, all the while looking forward to their trip to Mormon Eden the next day.

Congratulations, Avi: you've found Eden after all, along with the Partner-in-Paradise that you've always wanted.

Lost Book of Mormon is a wonderful read: funny, thought-provoking, poignant. I'd recommend it to anyone. I'd heartily recommend that the writer himself give it another read, to see what he's really telling himself.

So Avi—dude—you're gay, OK?

Come on, figure it out.

 

 

 

Avi Steinberg (2014) The Lost Book of Mormon: A Mythic Journey Through the Mythic Lands of Nephi, Zarahemla, and Kansas City, Missouri. Nan A. Talese.

 

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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.
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