Literary Arts

David Pace, Postum and the Three Nephites

David PaceWhen he’s not busy raising money for Repertory Dance Theatre or editing 15 Bytes’ literary content, David Pace pounds away at his laptop, tablets and phone, writing his own fiction and essays. After two decades of writing and re-writing a novel manuscript, Pace is anticipating the publication of his first novel, Dream House on Golan Drive (Signature Books) this June. Along with Maxmillian Werner, Pace will be reading from his work at the City Art Reading Series this Wednesday, January 13 at the Salt Lake City Main Library.
15B: What is your novel about?

Pace: It’s a coming of age story about a kid growing up in Provo during the 70s and 80s. And yes, the kid is Mormon. In fact he comes from a sprawling family that, when the novel opens, has just moved into a new home up on the bench in a (fictitious) development called “Golan Heights,” after the contested area on the Syria/Israeli border. At City Art, I’ll be reading Chapter 2 ,which was recently published in Dialogue journal under the title “The Postum Table.”

15B: Postum instead…let me guess…coffee table?
Pace: Right. Because of the LDS injunction again coffee and tea, the family calls it thus in order to “avoid the very appearance of evil.”

15B: Is it autobiographical? 
Pace: Yes, and no. I did come from an even larger Mormon family than is detailed in the book. And certainly some of the familial and religious sensibilities are, hopefully, portrayed accurately. But, the narrator is non other than a 2,000-year old character from the Book of Mormon. Sort of the Mormon equivalent of “the Wandering Jew,” who also makes an appearance in the book.

15B: One of the Three Nephites? So, magic realism?
Pace: Yes. So it’s definitely fiction. And, as is de rigeur for these kinds of outings, I have to say that while none of it really happened, all of it is true.

15B: Why is the narrator one of the Three Nephites out of the Book of Mormon?
Pace: The narrator was originally Riley, the subject of the book, in first person. It was only later, when my first short story was published [“American Trinity” in Dialogue] that I realized I had conjured this very interesting character “Zed,” short for “Zedekiah.” I wanted to add him to the story after the novel’s first few drafts were completed because of the perspective and compassion that it provided for the main character and his family. I think using a mythological character like Zed works. And the commentary that he gives throughout and when he’s riffing with the Wandering Jew can be not only ironic, which would be expected, but funny.

15B: You say it took two decades to get it published. Why did it take so long?
Pace: You tell me. One agent told me that she didn’t like it because when the main character leaves Mormonism he’s still not okay. In fact in many ways he’s worse off. She was reading it as an expose of a fundamentalist faith and wanted some kind of reward for her reader that I wasn’t offering. But more to the point the delay in its publication speaks to the lack of an audience for a serious literary treatment of Mormons. “Good” Mormons don’t want to necessarily read about flawed characters who are living the life. Outsiders, apostates or “Jack” Mormons aren’t interested, usually, in anything that doesn’t demonize the faith and its members. There are about three of us right now out there who want to see something nuanced. Something that will dignify the culture.

15B: Would you call yourself a Mormon writer? Pace: Hopelessly.

Pace and Werner will appear at City Art this Wednesday, Jan. 14 at 7 pm at the Salt Lake City Main Library. Free and open to the public.

Literary editor of 15 Bytes art magazine Pace is the author of stories and narrative nonfiction that have appeared in Quarterly West, Alligator Juniper, ellipsis…literature and art, Dialogue, Sunstone and elsewhere. His debut novel Dream House on Golan Drive won first place in the Utah Original Writing Competition. He’s also the winner of best short fiction, 2011, from Dialogue and the Association for Mormon Letters for his first published short story “American Trinity.”

Categories: Literary Arts

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