Some LDS readers have an intriguing tendency to venerate obviously scholarly research while turning up their noses at what they consider less “academic” work. These readers are missing out on a potentially impactful genre. Eugene England wrote, “It is the personal essay that seems to me to have the greatest potential for making a uniquely valuable Mormon contribution both to Mormon cultural and religious life and to that of others.” If that notion is true, reading works like Pat Madden’s collection of personal essays, Quotidiana, should be added to our academic diet to refine and broaden the value we place on a whole spectrum of study.
For readers who wince at the sentimentality of some creative nonfictional writing, Madden’s book might be the ideal transition into the genre. Madden, who was once on a scientific path himself, not only embraces academic research, he joins it with his personal accounts, holding out his hand to readers who crave objective data. The data, the research, and the scholastic theory are all present, but they form a sort of bridge to the more personal applications. While not self-consciously avoiding the spiritual, Madden allows his belief to shape his vision rather than having that belief be his vision. In other words, Madden’s work might not appeal to the Mormon reader waiting for meditations on the Book of Mormon, the priesthood, or Interstate 15. But that just might be a good thing.