A Sense of Order and Other Stories
Nephi's invitation to liken the scriptures to ourselves is an invitation to speculate, an invitation Jack Harrell's A Sense of Order, and Other Stories accepts richly. What if I were Adam or Eve in the “Lone and Dreary World”? What if I could glimpse into the hearts around me? Would the sorrow of “Godsight” kill me? What if Job was one of Hawthorne's characters, but in a small Mormon town, and the messenger claiming to have a message from God (or the Brethren) had a firm bony handshake, but called himself Brother Lucy? Who is he, this light who takes you into the dark night and the deep water where prophets are wont to swim? What if Ethan Brand sought not the eternal burning of the lime kiln but some way to unmake his unpardonable choice?
In the title story a character’s sense of order is askew, in others the culture’s is. What if Jesus went to a rock concert with a boy, and the people who called the boy a blasphemer for telling it were Mormons? What if a man received a testimony in front of The Christus and raised his arms and shouted “Hallelujah” and began testifying, how would Temple Square react? But these stories move beyond their setups, beyond terror and satire, to glimpse what else God sees besides our follies and sorrows, to show us as whole beings.
In “Jerome and the Ends of the Universe” a black curtain painted with fluorescent constellations invites us to part the curtain of heaven and move into the promise of joy and divine chance. Harrell's stories probe order and disorder, probe and reorder tradition, probe chance encounters and divine chaos as liberating forms for our lives.
For this contribution The Association for Mormon letters is pleased to recognize Jack Harrell for A Sense of Order, and Other Stories with an award for short fiction for 2010.