Reed Cowan appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #341. Mr. Cowan is most recently the director of 8: The Mormon Proposition, which opens in numerous theaters on June 18, 2010.
Condition of Mr. Segundo: Conducting investigations on Dick Van Pattern’s possible Mormon connections.
Guest: Reed Cowan
Subjects Discussed: [List forthcoming]
EXCERPT FROM SHOW:
Correspondent: I wanted to also ask about the box of secret documents. You don’t actually cite a source. And there’s no indication in the film that you made efforts to corroborate this with the LDS. Or to even contact the names that were possibly on the emails or the memos. I mean, I’m a viewer — let’s say — who is on the fence. I see this. There’s no provenance. Did you make any steps to confirm the provenance? And why isn’t this in the film? I mean, is there some sort of website component here that one can use to find authenticity?
Cowan: I’ve actually met the person with the documents out of the Church offices. Out of the archives. So there was some corroboration that went on there. And also, what a lot of people don’t know is that, during the federal case that’s going on right now, those documents were provided to the case as well. Which led to subpoenas of other documents from the Mormon Church. In those subpoenas, we were able to see that the documents the Church had to hand over correlated with the ones we have. So it’s a matter of court record, from my understanding with the people inside the trial, that they match.
Correspondent: Which court record is this? Which case?
Cowan: In the federal trial that’s going on right now. Perry vs. Schwarzenegger.
Correspondent: Okay. Got it. And speaking of which, I actually wanted to ask you why you didn’t cover Strauss vs. Horton — the three cases that were consolidated into the California Supreme Court. And the Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8. It would seem to me that that’s just as much a part of the story as the Mormon mobilization. And also the efforts to try and take Proposition 8 off the ballot that were again rebuffed by the California Supreme Court.
Cowan: Well, the thesis of our film is “8: The Mormon Proposition.” And so really the onus is on us to prove their strategy, right? And to prove to the audience how it came together, how the strategy was formed. And so we feel like we did that. And anything else is outside of that focus. And, you know, there’s so much here. I mean, you’re right. There is so much here that if the citizenry really wanted to see what’s going on, I mean, you could produce ten, fifteen hours of programming. Just in the federal trial alone. I mean, the fact that they are not allowing the testimony to be televised, to me, is sickening. And could be hours and hours and hours of documentary material that we could obviously add to the film.
Correspondent: Hours and hours of dramatization as well.
Cowan: Sure. Sure. But I don’t know an audience that wants to sit through ten hours of documentary. And so look for the books, I guess. Look for other documentaries. And I hope there are more made.
Correspondent: I’m wondering if you believe that any Mormon can believe in same sex marriage.
Cowan: I do. I know that some of my high profile Mormon friends believe that I have the same rights as they do. And I have the right to claim those rights. It would be surprising, I think, to a lot of Mormons to know that one of the most popular governors in the state of Utah, Jon Huntsman, and his wife Mary Kaye are dear friends of mine. Jon has now been appointed the Ambassador to China by President Obama. And they are very close friends of mine. And Jon Huntsman has gone so far in that state — now a lot of people wouldn’t like that he didn’t come out and advocate for marriage, but he advocated in that state for civil unions. And that was a huge step. And Mary Kaye said to me, “You realize why we took this stand and took the heat. It was because of you and your partner. It was because of our relationship and friendship with you.” So can Mormons get it? Absolutely. Absolutely.
Correspondent: Then I’m wondering why you didn’t profile, for example, Laura Compton, who started that site MormonsforMarriage.com. I mean, that seems to me a decided apostasy in relation to this particular issue. That not all Mormons are some sort of Borg-like collective.
Cowan: Yeah. You know, there were a few who did dare speak out. There were many who were punished in certain ways for speaking out. And that created a culture where they didn’t dare. So people like Laura are heroes. But again, the thesis was to prove “Look, this was their proposition.” It wasn’t the Catholic proposition. The Mormons were the man behind the curtain. And so again, I welcome any documentary who can profile her or the other few, the minority of Mormons who stood up for marriage equality. And continue to do so. And who are now crossing the aisle and seeing where the inequity happened.
Correspondent: Surely deflecting criticisms from the Mormon Church by having someone like Laura Compton in your documentary would have allowed, I suppose, for those sitting on the fence to consider the issue perhaps a little bit more.
Cowan: Maybe she would have provided a light that people could follow. But again that’s not what the film was about. The film was to show the inequity. Because that was the great wrong that happened. And, you know, in an hour and twenty minutes, that’s the time we had. The time we had to try to prove that case.
Ander Monson appeared is most recently the author of Vanishing Point, as well as a poetry collection called The Available World, which nobody had thought to send to Mr. Segundo’s motel room. Contrary to photographic evidence, Mr. Monson does not have a beard.
Mr. Monson previously appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #21, just before Mr. Segundo had finally switched over from Betamax to VHS.
Condition of Mr. Segundo: Pointing at the designated vanishing spot.
Author: Ander Monson
Subjects Discussed: [List forthcoming]
EXCERPT FROM SHOW:
Correspondent: The subtitle for this book is “Not a Memoir.”
Correspondent: Is it safe to say that you’re not a writer and I’m not a journalist. Maybe we can establish some terms here.
Monson: I think so. Yeah, I think so. I mean, it’s a little tongue-in-cheek. But I don’t consider it to be a memoir. But at the same time, as soon as you call something “Not a Memoir,” it sets the tone of the conversation.
Monson: So a number of the reviews have been suggesting the ways in which it is a memoir. But it’s also explicitly not a memoir, in the sense that the book is really not — is interested in taking apart the idea of memoir.
Correspondent: Yeah. But it’s also not a manifesto.
Monson: It’s also not that.
Monson: That’s true.
Correspondent: Maybe you need a subtitle to grab the reader’s attention for more conceptual stuff.
Monson: No, it’s true. The subtitle was actually suggested by one of the designers at Graywolf. I think they were looking for something besides “Essays.” And I actually liked it. I thought the subtitle worked quite well. Because it’s a little bit in your face.
Correspondent: In your face? Just by saying “Not a Memoir?”
Monson: I think so.
Monson: Yeah, I think so.
Correspondent: But then again, you can always…
Monson: I mean, “in your face” as far as nice Midwestern boys writing experimental literature.
Correspondent: I didn’t find it that way. I found it more of a playful thing.
Monson: Well, it is.
Monson: I think so too. But some of the reviews have taken it as a shot across the bow or whatever.
Correspondent: Really? I didn’t see thee reviews.
Monson: There was a review — I want to say one of the first reviews it got — Booklist maybe? Or Library Journal. One of the two did a review of it, with eighteen new memoirs.
Monson: But seemed to review it as a memoir. Which kind of pissed me off. Because it’s…
Correspondent: It’s very clearly on the title. “Not a Memoir.”
Monson: Yeah. It says very specifically. I don’t know. It’s hard to be pissy. Because it’s gotten really good reviews otherwise.
Correspondent: Yeah, but what if this thing gets categorized in the memoir section? Then what are you going to do?
Monson: Well, it kind of has to be. In a certain sense. Or else like what? Cultural criticism? They say it’s “Literature/Essays.” I mean, [John] D’Agata’s book is “Cultural Criticism.” Which I guess is apt, but…
Correspondent: I wanted to talk about this idea of the memoir. Because near the end of the book, you suggest that by reading memoir, we pretend to comprehend a life. I’m wondering if it’s more accurate that a reader, by way of seeing a life placed in narrative, might comprehend a pretense of some kind. That pretense is probably more truthful than any cold and clinical declarations of the truth.
Monson: I mean, I think so. I think that the thing that attracts readers to memoir is that you read memoir to understand your own life. In as much as you understand some semblance of a life. That whatever — simulation, which is kind of what the memoir genre offers. So I think in that sense, that’s right.
Correspondent: Well, on the subject of karaoke, I’m wondering how a song can be truly liberated from its original form. I mean, aren’t we talking about possibly some secondary or supplemental component that comes with the karaoke? Aren’t we talking more about performance than the actual song?
Monson: Well, you know, karaoke is a complicated thing. It’s partially because what it does. It allows readers or listeners to participate in the song in a way that I think people want to do now. With film, now people can remix. There’s a billion — like, homegrown — versions of Star Wars. And those kids who are doing the shot-by-shot remake of the Raiders of the Lost Ark film.
Correspondent: The Super 8 version.
Monson: Yeah. So there’s this real participatory instinct. But there hasn’t been ways to do that in books in a certain sense. Which is partially why the book is structured kind of the way that it is. You can type in some into the website and so on. But karaoke is trickier. There are songs that, by singing them, you liberate it from the original context of the crappy version, and how you felt about it, and who you were when you first heard that song. And how much you disliked it. And in some ways, it is sort of overlaying the one on the other. But it really does become a new thing by singing. If you’re doing it at all well. And there is certainly an element of performance, which is a big part of why people are successful at singing karaoke. You’ve got to deliver the rock if you’re going to sing a rock song. So there is that element. But it’s also interesting to see the way that people decide to do it. Because some people — do you choose to try and sing it like the original singer? Or it’s sort of like the ironic guy, who’s going to do the kind of William Shatnerization of things.
Monson: Or are you even trying to do the voice? Which a lot of people try to do the voice. Which is also what keeps me doing AC/DC.
Correspondent: But if you’re talking also about camp, I mean, some people find a voice through an artificial delivery of a preexisting song.
Monson: They do. They do. And I think that’s in some ways that’s kind of an analogue for the ways in which a lot of writers — I mean, you learn by imitation. You love this thing. You sort of try to get it inside you and you do it. And even if you’re not doing that intentionally, trying to copy The Sun Also Rises — like type out every line. Which is not a bad exercise for a writer. You know, I read Underworld by DeLillo one summer. And I wrote a story, which is in Other Electricities, which is a very DeLilloesque story. And I still kind of recognize that in a weird way. I think the story works on its own. So there is a sense in which — I mean, you do get to a sense of your own personal voice by either opposing or working from other models. And some of those models are, just like the thousands of songs you’ve heard, the ways you’ve heard people sing, it’s pretty hard to do something really original.