Is Steve Peck a madman, a sinister deviant, or a genius? I really don’t know for sure but I can say that I find his ability to make a two headed cowboy/philosopher (with three conscious centers mind you) feel quite normal, to be fascinating, to say the very least. I first read A Short Stay in Hell about a year and a half ago. I found it interesting and terrifying and would classify it as both a work of horror/suspense and speculative theology. Then I found that he also writes a deeply troubling, challenging, and believable ethical quandaries in Two Dog Dose, and elsewhere. I’ve cracked into his fictional world of squirrels just a bit and I reviewed his most recent collection of essays titled Evolving Faith which delves deep in philosophy and science (oh ya he does science at BYU on the side) but also shares some very personal experiences and feelings about life in general. I’ve yet to read his science fiction work (I don’t think A Short Stay in Hell or the Scholar of Moab fit into that box quite right) so I have more work/reading to do, but this Peck fella remains an enigma (a like-able one though).

Now that you are thoroughly confused about the author I’ll give you a glimpse of what The Scholar of Moab is. Like Steve, it is a really unique piece of work. Rather than a typical chapter by chapter story telling narrated to the reader in this book we have a collection of documents found and compiled by the Redactor. The Redactor doesn’t do much for us other than ordering the documents to read and adding occasional explanatory notes (though these are infrequent). Each source, whether it is a journal, a letter, an interview, a news report, or a redactor’s note all have their own unique voice and perspective (as well as limited knowledge, the Redactor is the only one that has the bird’s eye view). At first I thought it would be jarring to shift from one document to the next but then found it as easy to read as any other book but more interesting than most, I think because of the anticipation created by clearly signaling a new voice in shifting from one document to another.

In this way Steve has spun a wild story about ‘normal’ people in rural central Utah getting caught up with alien visitors, 19th century English literature, pseudo-scientific experiments, a farcical communist conspiracy, and criminal controversies (I mean what else could you ask for). But it is not just a humorous ironic ride he takes us on, many of the key characters experience deep personal insight and conflict and express that in very different ways. From the poetess Dora Daphne speaking from a melancholy state of mind, to the blue collared Hyrum Thayne using his past experience of unexpectedly falling into a road work site to describe his changing worldview.

The Scholar of Moab is a fun story but like any good story it will likely make you think scholarly thoughts.


One of my favorite aspects of the book is its rural setting (which I identify with, having grown up in semi-rural Davis County Utah). I find much of “country talk” appealing as it is usually quite direct and pointed. I also find it humorous and earthy. As I read I collected many of Hyrum’s sayings or ‘lessons’ that would not be uttered by those unfamiliar with country folk. I also recalled similar funny statements from my youth and from friends who are fluent in ‘the language.’

Appendix 1: Rural Phrases and ‘Lessons’ from The Scholar of Moab

“There was no moon & the cold December night was as black between the stars as a birds eye.”
pg. 20

“The words sliced me in 2 like a 4th of July Watermelon”
pg 52

“Of course, my grandpappy would not likely put up with me telling him too much. One time he told my dad to do some such thing but my dad was playing with a puppy and did’nt jump right away to do the chore. So my grandpappy went into the house and grabbed his 30 30 and came back an shot the little dog in the head saying When I tell you do something you do it when I tell you to do it. When my dad tells the story he thinks it was a great Lesson.”
pg 92

“The bishop is the Judge in Israel & the Lord gives him a special power of Discernment. They could detect a lie like a mother bird can tell if one of her chicks has been touched & peck it dead if it was.”
pg 126

“My Curiosity was raising itself up like a newborn lamb ready to her first suckle. And I was about that Shaky.”
pg 140

“Now its not that I was that firm on the idea of a flood covering up the whole earth & every animal in the world loaded up in a boat the size of a football field. But dang it it was part of Mormonism. Part of the Gospel. Part of everything I’d been taught since I was no larger than a barrel cactus.”
pg 141

“He was still staring hard at road cuts with his head half way out of the Truck like a farm dog on the way to a picnic.”
pg 141

“I should’nt have acted so surprised. I expect that they taught all this stuff up at the BYU but for us in Moab hearing that one of the finest Apostles believed in Evolution was like hearing that Abe Lincoln was a member of the KKK.”
pg 142

“Hells Bells things have become as confused as a Mouse in a clothes dryer.”
pg 216

“Sandra is looking at me with eyes lit up like the coals of a wind graced campfire.”
pg 216

“all of this mess is weighing on my Conscience like a bear on a rug.”
pg 219

“I feel like a squirrel in the back of a Camper shell covered pickup being bounced along a rutty dirt road with too little to get my claws into and no control over the fourwheeling roughness of the ride.”
pg 256

 

Appendix 2: Rural Phrases from Personal Experience

“They’d have him in the looney bin by Wednesday”

“Busier than a one legged Bobcat covering up his own crap on a frozen pond”

“Happy as a dead pig in the sun”

“Raining like a cow pissing on a flat rock in the morning”

“Dry as a popcorn fart”

“I’ll tell you how tired I sometimes get. Last Friday, I got home. And about 8:30, somebody started knocking on my door. And I opened up, and it’s my ass just getting in”

“Colder than a well digger’s butt”

“Runned off faster than a scalded dog”

Well that went over like a pregnant pole-vaulter”

“Slicker than goose crap on a pump handle”

“Darker than the inside of a cow”

“Tastes like the inside of a bums pocket”

“I’m so hungry my backbones rubbing a hole in my belly button”

“Size enough to flank a buffalo”

“Built like a brick shit house”

“That smell would knock a buzzard off a gut wagon”

“Funny as a three-legged dog in a horse race”

“Ain’t got the brains of a piss ant”

“Busier than a two peckered billy goat”

“As frustrated as a steer in a heifer herd”

I’m so ugly I look like something that just fell off of a turnip truck”

“Cute as a bug’s ear”

“More nervous than a whore in church”

“Nuttier than squirrel poop”

“Happier than a dog on a gut wagon”

 

 

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