Night of the Living Rez
Set in a Native community in Maine, Night of the Living Rez is author Morgan Talty’s debut collection about what it means to be Penobscot in the twenty-first century and what it means to live, to survive, and to persevere after tragedy
A boy unearths a jar that holds an old curse, which sets into motion his family’s unraveling; a man, while trying to swindle some pot from a dealer, discovers a friend passed out in the woods, his hair frozen into the snow; a grandmother suffering from Alzheimer’s projects the past onto her grandson, and thinks he is her dead brother come back to life; and two friends, inspired by Antiques Roadshow, attempt to rob the tribal museum for valuable root clubs.
A collection that examines the consequences and merits of inheritance, and an unforgettable portrayal of a Native community.
(adapted from Goodreads)
More about this collection
A conversation with Morgan Talty – a short interview about the author and his work
Make Something Inexplicable Happen – an in-depth interview about the author’s process, with particular emphasis on how the collection was put together, and why it wasn’t going to be ‘a novel’.
There is a passage in this interview of particular interest to lovers of linked short stories, myself included, so I have taken the liberty of quoting it here in full:
Talty: “So why isn’t this a novel? Why turn these into stories? Why not have an overarching theme or plot to it? I got to this point where I wanted the book to be both. I thought of Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, which people are afraid to definitively label as either a novel or a story collection. She brilliantly created the space for this other form to exist. I wondered, why can’t I do that?
“Then I queried a lot of agents, and they wanted to see a novel. A lot of them advised that I turn this into a novel. I think that with some work, it could have been a novel. But turning it into a novel would have made it more mechanical. I think it would have shown the nuts and bolts of the craft more. I didn’t quite want that, but I also understood that I had to find some overarching something, which became a question: What went so terribly wrong, that this innocent and good-natured boy wound up the way he did?
“You can point to a number of dramatic moments in these stories, but they never really felt so transformative and so powerful that they would push David to become so different. I knew I had to find that moment. That’s where revisiting “Night of the Living Rez” came in. I won’t talk about the ending, but there’s a pivotal final moment in this family saga. It wasn’t in the original draft of “Night of the Living Rez,” but as I revised it, I worked toward it because I knew this was it. This was the answer. It’s the moment that makes it all make sense.
“That’s how the collection kept evolving and becoming what it would be. I kept having to listen to what the story wanted and what the book wanted, not so much what I wanted. I started with just David’s stories, and then I wound up with a book that became completely different. I abandoned what I wanted, at a certain point, and just trusted that the story would do what it wanted, and then I would just go from there.”
“I wonder if How’d we get here? is the wrong question. Maybe the right question is How do we get out of here? Maybe that’s the only question that matters.”– Morgant Talty, Night of the Living Rez
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