On Nov. 4, 2021, Morgan Talty and Katie Lattari read excerpts from their respective books as part of the New Writing Series. For years, the University of Maine English department has hosted the New Writing Series featuring different guest writers sharing their work with the student body at UMaine. Students are able to hear what the writers are working on or what they have recently published with time for a questions and answers session at the end.
Steven Evans, the chair of the English department, introduced the event. This was the fourth event in this semester’s New Writing Series. He gave a special thanks to the students attending as a part of the Honors 180 class curriculum, and to the instructor Mimi Killinger for fostering a love of writing and other arts in her students. Due to the class being in attendance, there were more people than usual at the event. Typically, there are about fifteen people in attendance but there were about 40 people on Thursday.
Hollie Adams, a professor of creative writing and Canadian literature at UMaine, introduced the authors to the audience. First, she introduced Katie Lattari. Adams commended “Dark Things I Adore,” Lattari’s newest novel. This psychological thriller follows two separate plots. One plot focuses on an art student, Audra, who lures her art professor up to her camp in Maine. Audra’s art professor is harboring lustful feelings for her, and it appears that Audra is aware of his advances and has designed every moment of their weekend together. This plot coincides with the story of an art camp with hidden secrets in northern Maine set in 1988. Audra holds the link between the two twisted tales and one character will meet a terrible end.
This novel has been met with praise from various outlets. The story is captivating and the prose is beautiful. Lattari, a UMaine alumna, has written another novel called “American Vaudeville” and a lot of short fiction that has been featured in a variety of books and magazines. “Dark Things I Adore” is her biggest hit thus far.
Her book was reviewed in The New York Times Book Review. “[Dark Things I Adore] is a testament to [Lattari’s] careful and sinewy plotting, which reveals in chilling detail who gets to make art, and who gets subsumed in the process.” With the success of this novel, one can only anticipate great things from Lattari in the future.
Adams then introduced the next author, Morgan Talty. Talty is a member of the Penobscot Indian Nation and he grew up on the reservation. He has a robust academic career and received his Bachelor of Arts in Native American Studies from Dartmouth College and his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Southern Maine’s StoneCoast MFA program.
Currently, he is set to publish a short story collection called “Night of the Living Rez” with Tin House Books. He is the proud recipient of the 2021 Narrative Prize and has received a grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation. Talty has published many short stories in places like The Georgia Review, Narrative Magazine and LitHub amongst other publications. Talty teaches at StoneCoast and has recently joined UMaine to teach creative writing and Native American studies.
Before his readings, Talty emphasized the importance of November being Native American Heritage Month. Sadly, due to the overwhelming amount of trauma that Indigenous people face, both on a generational and individual level, Native Americans are far more likely to experience mental health issues. Talty’s work focuses on telling the stories of addiction, skewed family dynamics and processing the impact of trauma on one’s life.
He read a short story called “Burn,” which will appear in his upcoming publication. This story follows a character named Dee who lives on a Native American reservation. Dee is someone who has to ride the bus to attend a methadone clinic. Usually Dee rides the bus with his friend to the clinic, but on the day the story takes place the two didn’t meet up like they usually would. Instead Dee finds his friend frozen in a snowbank while he is on the way to purchase marajuana from a friend on the reservation. His friend’s hair is caught, so Dee cuts it so his friend can be free. He then goes to finish his errands, but at the request of his friend rescues the clump of hair from the snowbank so that they can burn it. In their culture it is not good spiritual practice to leave the hair in the snow. The two friends become intoxicated and wait for the hair to dry out so they can burn it.
Talty also read “Safe Harbor,” another piece from his upcoming book. The story is about a character named David who goes to visit his mother in a mental health facility. There is some tension between David and his mother, but it is diffused with humor, and Talty takes his time describing the setting and side characters in beautiful detail. The narrative is action packed and there is a surprise at every corner.
Talty uses humor when writing about difficult topics. He expressed that he never goes into a piece trying to be funny, but if the moment arises while writing he tries to capitalize on it. Talty said that if a writer can make someone laugh they can take them to the darkest of places, so he uses humor as a cushion when discussing traumatic stories if it feels appropriate.
As the fourth installment in the 2021 New Writing Series came to a close there were opportunities for a question and answer session with the authors. People were given the opportunity to buy “Dark Things I Adore” if they wished. Adams announced that the next New Writing Series will be in early December.