Surviving Utah with Bagley
February 9, 2008
Pat Bagley argues that Utah is far from being the "refuge of radical religionists" it was originally intended to be. People arrive expecting long black coats and pioneer wagons, he says, but instead, what they find are the quotidian minivans and soccer moms. Utah today is probably the most American place in the world, he observes, it’s just some people just need a guide to understand it.
Bagley released his "Utah Survival Guide" late in 2007 in an effort to explain Utah just as the state shared the limelight with U.S. presidential hopeful, and LDS-Church member Mitt Romney. Until Romney suspended his campaign Thursday, there was a massive interest and plenty of confusion surrounding the state and the Church and Bagley knew it was just the right time to put together the book he had been meaning to write, but had put on the back burner.
"It was needed — it was necessary — especially with Mitt Romney running for president, and Utah and the LDS Church being in the spotlight. I thought, well, Utah’s kind of quirky, and sometimes you need things explained. There is no place like Utah in the whole world, it’s just very, very different, but not in the way most people think it is."
"Bagley’s Utah Survival Guide" reflects his 27-year career as the Salt Lake Tribune’s chief cartoonist, arguably the more progressive papers of the state’s two largest, but also as a graduate of Brigham Young University, and a self-described "Mormon Emeritus." "It’s a research project that started 26 years ago," he muses.
The illustrated book is full of sass and sarcasm that takes its cue from the Daily Show school of comedy. Like the show’s host Jon Stewart’s "America: A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction," which looks and feels like a textbook, but reads like a comic strip, "Utah Survival Guide" exploits the standard style of a typical guidebook. Chapters are titled "History: Sanitized for Your Protection," "Drinking in Utah: Fine Whines" and "Politics: Neocons Gone Wild."
Under the chapter, "Polygamy: Latter-day Lust," includes a Mark Twain excerpt on polygamy from "Roughing It," his account about living in the west. "was feverish to plunge in head-long and achieve a great reform (in Utah) until I saw the Mormon women. Then I was touched. My heart was wiser than my head. It warmed toward these poor, ungainly and pathetically ‘homely’ creatures I said, ‘No the man that marries one of them has done an act of Christian charity."
Recommended Stories For You
The book also includes unlikely comparison charts, contrasting Jews and Mormons ("Jews: Jews are from the House of Israel;" "Mormons: Mormons claim to be from the House of Israel by way of Scandinavia") and Mormons and Battlestar Galactica ("Mormonism: Center of the universe is a star called Kolob;" "Center of the universe is a star called Kobol.")
In general, Bagley’s book has been well received thus far. In Park City, copies of "Bagley’s Utah Survival Guide" have sold out at Dolly’s Bookstore. On Feb. 28, the Park City Library will host a book talk featuring Bagley at 7 p.m. However the book has also rankled more than a few conservative members of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-day Saints.
"I expected it," he says of the negative reviews. "Any time you talk about religion, in this state especially, everyone’s got to get in on the act. Some people think it’s a little disrespectful of the Church and my biggest defense is that it’s true. Show me where it’s not true, it’s not accurate, I tell them, and then they go and start talking about the tenor and the tone and they’re not happy with that, but as far as I’m concerned the book is dead on."
Born in California, Bagley had family in Utah that he visited while growing up. When he talks to people who live outside of Utah, Bagley says there’s still a lot of confusion. "They think Mormons are kind of weird, all sorts of stuff about polygamy and the politics of the state are kind of murky too," he explains. "People come here thinking they’re going to see the Amish, and it’s really not that way. We’re quirky, but we’re quirky in other ways."
Meet Pat Bagley at the Park City Library at 1255 Park Ave. on Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. His presentation will include a talk accompanied by 40 to 50 of his cartoons that have appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune, and that have been syndicated nationally.
Utanics: Pat Bagley translates the native tongue
In "Bagley’s Utah Survival Guide," he helps non-natives speak Utahn.
Brothern male fellow religionist.
Crick A small stream
Fark an eating utensil
Ignernt uneducated, lacking refinement
Jell prison, slammer, pokey
Shore term of assent; response in the affirmative; as in, "Yes."