Monday, July 3, 2017

"We Shall Not All Sleep"

Estep Nagy began writing his first novel, We Shall Not All Sleep, in 2005. His fiction and other writing have appeared in Southwest Review, The Believer, Paper, Box Office, and elsewhere. He wrote and directed the independent feature film The Broken Giant (1998), which is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. His plays have been produced and developed at theaters across the country, including at Actors Theater of Louisville and the Source Festival in Washington, DC. He attended Yale University.

Nagy applied the Page 69 Test to We Shall Not All Sleep and reported the following:
From page 69:

Catta stood at the top of the Indian Head cliffs and watched a gull attempt to fly while suspended in a strong headwind. He was so close that he could have leapt into the open air and touched it. He shouted and the gull turned and looked at him, and then went back to his struggle with the wind. Soon the gull worked free, dove downward into the shear, and then he was gone.

Through the hole where the bird had been, Catta saw the flat, red metallic barge, passing the bellbuoy and then turning to traverse the longest edge of the island toward the lonely corner of Seven that lay farthest from the clearing. Penny had stopped following him a little way into the woods and now she sat at the very front of the barge, her feet dangling in the whitecaps. Catta laughed out loud and shouted as loud as he could. They would never hear him, not at this height and distance, not against the wind and the motor. And then Penny’s head spun around. She waved enormously with her whole arm, like someone drown- ing, and Catta was suddenly happy. He shouted again, and then he waved and Penny waved and Edward Peck waved, too. The barge disappeared around the corner, and Catta turned and hurried home for lunch, taking the trails for better speed.
I learn so much in novels from a character’s relationship to nature. When I think of writers I love, Proust, Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, even The Hunger Games, how a character experiences and interprets the natural world is one of the most important things a novelist can tell the reader. So in that sense, I hope page 69 here begins to open a window into that essential part of Catta’s soul.

We Shall Not All Sleep has several threads, but its beating heart is the self-discovery of 12-year-old Catta Hillsinger. On page 69 he’s on a hike, something he does every day on the Maine island his family visits each summer. Soon after this, Catta's father puts him on a nearby island wilderness as a sort of test, but here, he’s trying to teach himself everything about the woods so that, eventually, he’s able to hike without a map, a compass, without anything. He unexpectedly gets that opportunity a few pages later, and so much in the book flows into and out of that moment.
Visit Estep Nagy's website.

--Marshal Zeringue