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william gay   Provinces of Night  
william gay    
reading from provinces of night

read a short story by william gay

read an excerpt from provinces of night

  In 1943, William Gay was born in Hohenwald, Tennessee.

In 1998, William Gay, carpenter and long-time resident of Hohenwald, Tennessee, published his debut short story in The Georgia Review. That story, "I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down," is featured in this issue of Bold Type. It can now be seen as the beginning of something.

In 1999, William Gay published his first novel, The Long Home. In a remarkable review of the book in the New York Times Book Review, Tony Earley placed Gay squarely in the company of Larry Brown and Cormac McCarthy. This is part of what Earley wrote: "At his best, Gay writes with the wisdom and patience of a man who has witnessed hard times and learned that panic or hedging won't make better times come any sooner; he looks upon beauty and violence with equal measure and makes an accurate accounting of how much of each the human heart contains."

This year, William Gay publishes his second novel, Provinces of Night, the dark saga of the Bloodworth clan. You can read an excerpt from it in this Bold Type. It is a novel so drenched in the cadences and the landscape and the characters and the spirit of the American South it would be a disservice to both Williams to not compare Gay to the unassailable, unmatchable, unavoidable king of Southern literature, Faulkner himself. It's a daunting comparison for any second-time novelist but then most of them don't spend fifty-five years warming up. But it shouldn't be a daunting comparison for readers, because Gay is nothing if not a darkly humorous, supremely engaging storyteller.

In fact, listen to him tell a story: here is a recording of Gay reading from Provinces of Night. Simply by virtue of where he (or she) is from, a writer from the South comes into two things: a grand literary tradition and a grand accent. Still, Gay reads in a voice that's all but impossible to describe; all that can be said is the obvious. The fifty-five years he spent "warming up," learning the "wisdom and patience" that inform his writing: he spent them in Hohenwald, Tennessee, and he spent them with a cigarette (look closely at his photo). Gay is a writer, so his words speak for themselves, but his voice brings them alive like nothing else can.

Once you've listened, and caught the voice, you should read the story that started it all (or print it out to read later; it's long but well worth it), and an excerpt from Provinces of Night.

--Sean McDonald
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  Photo credit: Amy C. Williams

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