THIS WEEK’S OTHER FEATURED BOOK, “SMALL BITES,” BY DON TASSONE, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, ALONG WITH THE “FIRST TUESDAY REPLAY.” OR, CLICK THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON OUR AUTHOR PAGE.
THE BOOK: That Night Alive.
PUBLISHED IN: 2016.
THE AUTHOR: Tara Deal.
THE EDITOR: I worked with Margaret Luongo, who was the final judge of the Miami University Press Novella Prize for the year that I won.
THE PUBLISHER: Miami University Press (in Oxford, Ohio). From their website: “Since 2004, Miami University Press has published one book of poetry each year (including poetry in translation) and one book of short fiction. Since 2005 the press has sponsored an annual novella contest.”
SUMMARY: That Night Alive is half futuristic fiction and half meditative memoir. The book begins on the narrator’s last day alive and moves backward in time to tell her story. She traces her path as a successful crypto-reporter, navigating a life of secrecy and solitude and world travel. A counter-narrative intersects, told by the same woman, who starts at the beginning and describes her struggles to create a work of beauty. That Night Alive is a story that investigates art and failure, persistence and success.
THE BACK STORY: I decided to write this book because I had been telling people that I wanted to pick a death date (say, the day I turn 80) and stick to it. I love the idea of a deadline and getting things done, and this sounded like a great idea, assuming nothing happened to me before then. But then if something did happen, that could be interesting, too. And I (probably immediately) decided to write about these two colliding ideas: happily planning for death on a certain day but then being confronted with death on a day you didn’t choose. And once I had this format in place, I wanted to make sure the two stories (about one woman) were very different, so I decided to combine fiction and memoir. The style I used for the fiction is very clipped, short sentences, monosyllabic words. The style I used for the memoir pieces is more flowery, sensual, emotional. One story goes backward in time. One story goes forward. Until they intersect, and the distinct styles start to break down, and everything comes together in the end and makes sense (or so I imagine).
WHY THIS TITLE?: The title comes from a passage in The Stranger by Albert Camus: “For the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the tender indifference of the world.” I love The Stranger and I am always writing about it in one way or another, always writing about happiness in the face of indifference, which I think is a beautiful thing. My mother-in-law asked me, after she read my book, why I couldn’t write about something happy once in a while, and I was a little bit shocked because I thought my book was all about happiness.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? If you are a reader with a short attention span, like literature to be a bit of a game, enjoy flashes of poetry now and then (without having to read actual poetry), and like a book to be a companion through absurdity, then I think you might enjoy That Night Alive.
“A futuristic, contemplative meditation on the transitory nature of life, the suffocation induced by a world under surveillance, and the eternal struggle to funnel creative expression into a work that will live long after its creator.” —Heavy Feather Review, May 2017.
“Completely riveting from first page to last” – Midwest Book Review, November 2016.
“The novella reads as a perfect amalgamation of poetry and prose.”— Nerds of a Feather Flock Together, October 2016.
AUTHOR PROFILE: Tara Deal was born in Savannah, Georgia, grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, and spent most of her time in the South trying to get out. New York seemed like a better idea.
When she visited the city for the first time, as a child, she saw a woman standing by herself on a subway platform and eating chocolate ice cream out of a cup. It was July but felt like August. (And the city was, in an hour or so, about to suffer a disastrous blackout, but she didn’t know that.) This woman had a journal under her arm and a big bag strapped across her chest. Filled with books and papers. Important work, perhaps. She had accomplished something, and now she was going somewhere. She looked like she had a perfect life. Maybe she was a book editor.
Tara Deal worked as a book editor in midtown Manhattan for many years. But now she works in an apartment at the bottom of the island, where she writes flash fiction, fragmented essays, and free verse, among other concoctions.
SAMPLE CHAPTER: Here’s a “peek inside” feature at Small Press Distribution. The link:
That Night Alive Fiction. Part futuristic fiction and part meditative memoir, THAT NIGHT ALIVE begins on the narrator’s death date and moves backward in time to tell her story.
WHERE TO BUY IT:
Miami University Press: http://www.orgs.miamioh.edu/mupress/details/deal_thatnightalive.html
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: http://www.taradeal.com.