December 18, 2012

30 Books in 30 Days: "A Short Stay in Hell," by Steven L. Peck

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A Short Stay in Hell, by Steven L. Peck

A Short Stay in Hell
By Steven L. Peck
Strange Violin

Earlier this year I had the chance to review Therese Doucet's delightful if not flawed lapsed-Mormon memoir A Lost Argument, which I thoroughly enjoyed despite its problems; so I was excited to learn that Doucet had actually started a new small press based on her experiences, and devoted to putting out other intelligent looks at formerly devout people questioning their faith. But unfortunately, the next title from this small press, Seven L. Peck's A Short Stay in Hell, is not that book; instead it's a rather silly and awfully padded-out fairytale, in which a Mormon dies and promptly learns from God that the one true faith is actually the obscure Zoroastrianism, and that the vast majority of humans who didn't believe in this faith while alive are fated to spend several billion years in a Hell that for some reason is specifically designed after a short story by Jorge Luis Borges, in which an infinitely large library contains one full-length book for every combination of a million sequential letters that exists in the universe. You could argue the logic of such a setup, argue that the human mind would snap long before finding the one specific book that each person is charged with locating in order to leave Hell, complain that the book is literally worthless in all the pages between the gimmicky setup and the "ba-dump-dah" ending; but all of that would miss the bigger point, that this book isn't worth spending that kind of time complaining about in the first place, the kind of empty cute literary exercise that you would normally expect to find as filler in the back of a random church bulletin one Sunday, not as a full-length book that someone is expecting you to pay ten dollars for. A disappointment from a press that otherwise got off to a great start, here's hoping that Doucet will be able to find further smart, intimate memoirs for Strange Violin in the future, and be able to skip these time-wasting bad jokes altogether.

Out of 10: 5.2

Filed by Jason Pettus at 10:42 AM, December 18, 2012. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |