We are excited to announce that Molly Gallentines’s essay, “Powder House,” has been chosen as the winner of the 12th annual Fourth Genre Steinberg Essay Prize! Judge Ned Stuckey-French shares his thoughts on the winning essay:
“Powder House” is an important, moving, fascinating, and beautiful essay. It’s also wonderfully odd, weaving together as it does meditations about St. Mark’s Place, the War on Terror, cookbooks, nineteenth century glue baron Peter Cooper, LBJ’s “Daisy” ad from the 1964 election, W. H. Auden, and the origins of Jell-O, among other things. There is a weird and comic narrative in which the author and her friend Brandon film a movie of themselves trying to make an orange gelatin mold using a Revolutionary Era recipe that calls for hand-ground hartshorn and isinglass, a collagen derived from the dried swim bladders of fish. As it happens, they are grating their deer antlers in the kitchen of Brandon’s apartment at 77 St. Mark’s Place, the same apartment building where the exiled Leon Trotsky wrote for the Russian revolutionary paper Novy Mir and Auden lived for the last 20 years of his life. But “Powder House” is a narrative essay mainly in the Montaignean sense. We don’t care so much about whether the gelatin will set properly. What pulls us along is the story of a mind thinking. Where will the next digression take us? What new connection will this distinctly American essay make? What more will we learn about history, place, memory, beauty, and art? A lot more as it turns out. I admire “Powder House” and its author very much.
“Powder House” will be published in Fourth Genre 19.1 (February 2017).
This year’s runner-up is Wilfredo Pascual with the essay “Terminus.”
To see more information about the Fourth Genre Steinberg Essay Prize and to read about past winners, visit the essay prize page.