709 Great Summer Reading: ‘Big Love’ or, well, let’s call it … Brady Udall’s ‘The Lonely Polygamist’

Speculation continues over whether Brady Udall, scion of one of America’s most influential Mormon families, had anything to do with HBO’s popular “Big Love” series. Come back Wednesday for our interview with Brady to learn more. But it is true that “Big Love” was a working title of his now well-known 1998 Esquire story about contemporary polygamy. The magazine eventually published this long piece of journalism under the title, “The Lonely Polygamist.” And now, while millions of Americans are attuned to the quirky idea of polygamy under the TV title, “Big Love,” Brady Udall finally has completed a long-awaited novel on the same theme, called “The Lonely Polygamist.”

Got that? If the tale sounds slightly twisted, try putting down the 602-page novel about the life of multiply married Golden Richards, which just recently hit bookstores from Norton. The twists and turns of Golden, his wives, children, employer and various associates will keep you grinning and flipping pages to find out what could possibly happen next! That’s not surprising because Udall is a grand storyteller. He currently teaches creative writing at the masters level for Boise State University. He is an award-winning writer of fiction and a journalist sought after by major national magazines.

“The Lonely Polygamist” is the newest recommendation in our ongoing series on Great Summer Reading and Viewing. To warm you to this exotic subject, today we’re going to share with you two brief excerpts: the first three paragraphs of Udall’s 1998 Esquire profile and the first three paragraphs of Udall’s 2010 novel.

How Brady Udall Started Esquire’s ‘Lonely Polygamist’

SUBTITLE: Meet Bill. He has four wives and thirty-one kids. And something’s missing.

Polygamy is not something you try on a whim. You don’t come home from work one day, pop open a beer, settle down for your nightly dose of Seinfeld reruns, and think, “Boy, my marriage is a bore. Maybe I should give polygamy a whirl.” It’s true that polygamy, as a concept, sounds downright inviting. Yes, there are lots of women involved, women of all shapes and sizes and personalities, a wonderful variety of women, and yes, they’ll fulfill your every need, cook your dinner, do your laundry, sew the buttons on your shirts. And yes, you’re allowed to sleep with these women, each of them, one for every night of the week if you want, and what’s more, when you wake up in the morning, you won’t have to deal with even the tiniest twinge of guilt, because these women, all of them, are your sweethearts, your soul mates, your wives.

Then what, you’re asking yourself, could possibly be the problem? The problem is this: Polygamy is not what you think it is. It has nothing to do with the little fantasy just spelled out for you. A life of polygamy is not a joyride, a guiltless sexual free-for-all. Being a polygamist is not for the easygoing or the weak of heart. It’s like marine boot camp or working for the mob; if you’re not cut out for it, if you don’t have that essential thing inside, it will eat you alive. And polygamy doesn’t just require simple cojones, either. It requires the devotion of a monk, the diplomatic prowess of Winston Churchill, the doggedness of a field general, the patience of a pine tree.

Put simply: You’d have to be crazy to want to be a polygamist. …

How Brady Udall Starts His Novel ‘Lonely Polygamist’

To put it as simply as possible: This is the story of a polygamist who has an affair. But there is much more to it than that, of course; the life of any polygamist, even when not complicated by lies and secrets and infidelity, is anything but simple. Take, for example, the Friday night in early spring when Golden Richards returned to Big House—one of three houses he called home—after a week away on the job. It should have been the sweetest, most wholesome of domestic scenes: a father arrives home to the loving attentions of his wives and children. But what was about to happen inside that house, Golden realized as he pulled up into the long gravel drive, would not be wholesome or sweet, or anything close to it.

The place was lit up like a carnival tent—yellow light burned in every one of the house’s two dozen windows—and the sound coming from inside was as loud as he’d ever heard it: a whooping clamor that occasionally broke up into individual shouts and wails and thumps before gathering into a rising howl that rattled the front door on its hinges and made the windows buzz. Golden hadn’t heard it like this in years, but he knew exactly what it was.  It was the sound of recrimination and chaos. It was the sound of trouble.

“Oh crud,” Golden said. …

You can order “The Lonely Polygamist: A Novel” from Amazon now.

Read along this week for more in our Great Summer Reading and Viewing series! And don’t miss Wednesday’s interview with Brady Udall about “The Lonely Polygamist.”

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(Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)


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