Thursday, July 6, 2017

Estep Nagy

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.

Recently I asked Nagy about what he was reading. His reply:
I’ve been re-reading Livy’s History of Rome, specifically the Oxford World Classics volume called Hannibal’s War.

That war (between Rome and Carthage, ca. 200 BC) lasted nearly twenty years, during most of which the Carthaginian general Hannibal occupied much of Italy. On a few occasions, Hannibal nearly captured Rome itself. Like all existential crises, that war produced impressive personalities who rose to the occasion. I’m especially drawn to Publius Cornelius Scipio, later known as Scipio Africanus, who took over the Spanish front of that war at a very young age (24!) after the horrific deaths of his father and uncle, who were generals there before him. Like Julius Caesar 150 years later, Scipio was a thoughtful leader with preternatural talents for both self-promotion and hard work that made some of those around him think he was touched by the divine. The politics in Rome are wonderful, too, and also immensely relevant to the current situation.

A major flaw of this book is that there are no women in it. However, Livy’s great strength — and I’m obviously not the first to discover this -- is that his history is practically a reference work of (masculine) conflicts, which makes it a particularly helpful book for a writer. I think the Harry Potter series, for instance, would have been very different without Livy. The names Albus, Severus, and Livius, the tests of single combat, the explicit placing of a society’s fate in the body of one person — all of these are elements of Livy that, intentionally or not, have migrated fruitfully into Rowling’s world.

Anyway I seem to find Livy comforting, somehow, despite the fact that someone dies on nearly every page.
Visit Estep Nagy's website.

The Page 69 Test: We Shall Not All Sleep.

--Marshal Zeringue