I am very excited to announce that my essay, “The Bottle City of God,” has won the 2013 Robert and Adele Schiff Award for Prose from the Cincinnati Review!
“The Bottle City of God” is a sharp-minded, nimble, thoughtful essay that manages to be both wide-ranging—set in Salt Lake City, it takes up issues of Mormonism, city planning, cricket plagues, the end-times and their role in LDS theology, jaywalking, graffiti about jaywalking, anti-religious prejudice, temperature inversions and air pollution—and deeply personal. Karrie Higgins meditates poignantly and with a luminous intelligence on what it is and means to live in Salt Lake City as a non-Mormon, on what it means to breathe Zion’s strange air. This is a marvelous essay about what can be assimilated, about both the literal and the metaphorical ways that we take into ourselves the places we live.
The essay will appear in the Summer 2014 issue. It seems like such a long time to wait!
It is doubly exciting to win because this piece also happens to be the beating heart of my book/grimoire-in progress.
When asked to write something about the process of writing “Bottle City of God,” I submitted this snippet:
“The Bottle City of God” started off as a spin-off piece from an essay I wrote about my early experiences in Salt Lake City undergoing a reluctant conversion–not to the Mormon faith, but to the concept of faith. In that piece, the air pollution played only a small part, but as my understanding of Zion deepened, and as I got sick from the air, I realized I was gaining what the Mormons call a “testimony.” But what did it mean to have faith without belief–and belief without faith? To be a gentile Mormon? The answer, I realized, was in the air. “The Bottle City of God” is evolving into a book: part theodicy, part grimoire wherein the pollution, the Zion grid, Mormon forger and bomber Mark Hofmann, Gary Gilmore, Ronnie Lee Gardner, Hugh Nibley, Brigham Young, Joseph Smith, David Copperfield, a local weather tower, and a cast of “missionaries” are colliding to cast a magic spell for atonement/at-ONE-ment.
So Summer 2014 for the essay … and who knows for the book? If I have it my way, it will be published before I die, at least!