I read William Gay's short story collection i hate to see that evening sun go down (the title being a reference to the WC Handy song most famously covered by Bessie Smith with Louis Armstrong playing the cornet) a few years ago and I believe I actually wrote an essay on one of those stories for a literature class of mine back in Austria. More importantly though I had sat in on an interview my dad did with him in Hohenwald, Tennessee (check out this photo if you care to see the friends we made there while having breakfast). Southern, gothic literature at its finest. The old Faulkner comparisons are most definitely overdone, but still valid in this case.
I couldn't resist buying the book while I was in a store getting a present for a friend and considered as a treat in between my regular consumption of French and scientific literature (nothing against either of those, but I have to admit that my heart still lies with good, ol'-fashioned Southern writing). I even read the book the way you would consume a piece of candy that pleases your taste buds and that you are afraid to let go, even while sucking hard on it and getting pleasure out of it will let it fade away far too quick. Sometimes I wish I'd spend my life reading books like this.
Now, in order to actually say something, anything about the novel. It is great. A page-turner without being dumb, exciting without being cheap. Gay's stories are violent. He writes about common folk in the rural South of first half of the 20th century. Yet, his heroes are beset by evil and by the inertia of institutions and public figures. I realize I am not making much sense, but there is a reason I have not become a literary critic of professor. Read him (it), he (it) is worth it.
Pure Class Warfare, With Extra Contempt
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