As with all nominees, finalists were eligible for consideration if they were published professionally in 2016 and had a connection to Utah via themes, setting, or author’s residence. The finalists were determined by 15 Bytes’ staff and guest judges based on two criteria: quality of writing/artistry and that indefinable quality that makes a book special and unforgettable
This year’s finalists include the following (in no particular order):
Sublime Physick (University of Nebraska Press), by Patrick Madden
Patrick Madden, in his book Sublime Physick, will make his reader laugh and think and self assess, all in one essay. This collection of essays, held together by a golden of thread of self discovery on the page and a literary theorist’s reflection, leads the reader down an honest disassembling of Madden’s own personal journeys as well as asks the reader to think about their own existence on this crazy spinning globe we all inhabit. His voice is as unique as it is approachable, not leaving anyone on the sidelines feeling less than worthy to read about some the of the high-minded subjects as diverse as the Beatles, the life and work of Eduardo Galeano, and the nature of time itself. When reading this book, one feels in the presence of a truly extraordinary mind.
Good Water (University Press of Colorado), by Kevin Holdsworth
Kevin Holdsworth’s Good Water presents the desert and mountains around Torrey, Utah as a landscape of contradictions, one that is harsh and nurturing, repellent and seductive, unforgiving and healing, and one that generates people who are passionate about their land and their way of life.
Holdsworth braids his personal narrative as a survivor of life in rural Utah on the periphery of society with accounts of the nasty politics of land use, and with descriptions of the creative force that pulsates through the other worldly topography of south-central Utah. These essays are personal and historical, particular and political—they allow the sacred beauty of the land to act as metaphor for the relationships that are both healthy and damaging—and Holdsworth manages the conflicts and emotional angst with empathy and honest reflection.
The essays in Good Water treat with humanity the conflicts that are endemic to a place where ranchers contend with environmentalists. Holdsworth grapples with the rhetoric of place and with the needs of all the inhabitants of Wayne County, and his portrait is distinctive and inclusive. He appreciates all the people who love the land, even those who would use it in ways that he sees as harmful, but he also knows that one of the best ways to persuade people to take care of the earth is to help them see it the way he sees it—as a “redemptive playground” where the sacred and the aesthetic mingle and, where the wild is preserved, preserves something powerful and beautiful in us.
You can read our review of the work here.
Immortal for Quite Some Time (University of Utah Press), by Scott Abbott
No one is spared the harsh, brilliant scrutiny of Scott Abbott‘s Immortal for Quite Some Time—not a memoir but “a fraternal meditation on the question, ‘Are we friends, my brother?’” In 1991, Abbott, his sisters, and their mother traveled to Boise to retrieve the body of Abbot’s younger brother, John, who’d died of AIDS. Though the devout Mormon family disdained John’s homosexuality, they tried to keep him close, preferring to know less, hoping he’d change. Immortal opens with the terrible unearthing of John’s immediate past, a landscape of suffering and isolation littered with evidence of John’s illness. Beer cans, too. But the family also hears anecdotes about his generosity, all these details sketching an ambiguous map of John’s drift toward independence from family, faith, and the institution that rejected him, yet considered him savable.
But for both John and Scott salvation would require obedience, the sublimation of sexual and intellectual questioning. What’s unknown about John’s pain and pleasures troubles Scott and his relations with his family, his colleagues at BYU, and the Mormon leadership. Immortal patiently sifts through past and present conflicts—some violent, others slow-burning—intertwining the brothers’ journals—Scott’s memories, dreams, and speculation touching John’s ephemeral sketches and poetry, his questions and recipes. To be John’s friend, to recover (not rehabilitate) him, to find John in himself, Scott necessarily turns the question “are we friends?” on those around him, setting up a deeply moving struggle toward peace and independence in the brutal light of honesty and love.
You can read our review of the work here.
The winner of the award will be announced in September during the Utah Humanities Book Festival. Stay tuned for the award ceremonies and readings. Finalists in fiction have been announced here, and those of poetry here. Finalists for art book will be announced soon.
15 Bytes and its publisher Artists of Utah thanks everyone who nominated a book for this award and for their support of the literary arts in the Beehive State.
Congratulations to the finalists!
David Pace is a writer and literary editor of 15 Bytes. Author of the novel “Dream House on Golan Drive,” (Signature Books), his creative work has also appeared in Quarterly West, ellipsis…literature and art, Alligator Juniper, Sunstone, Dialogue and reprinted/posted in Phone Fiction. His by-line has also appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, American Theatre, Huffington Post and elsewhere. www.davidgpace.com