Somehow I missed hearing that William Gay, a terrific southern writer, had passed away in February. I had dreamed that one day, on a trip to Nashville, I would look him up and tell him how much I loved his work and about its impact on my songwriting. I regret now I didn't make that visit a priority.
His collection of short stories, "I Hate To See the Evening Sun Go Down," is one of my favorites and each story has a title from an old blues tune. Gay had an ear for great music, as well as dialogue. Here's a sample from his first novel, "The Long Home."
“Your pa lit out, didn’t he?”
“I don’t know what happened to him. I never did believe he lit out and I don’t believe it now.”
“Well, folks is funny. I don’t care how close you think you know somebody, you don’t know what wheels is turnin in their head. Course you don’t remember but times was hard for folks back then. Times was tightern a banjo string. Lots of folks was on the road. He might’ve just throwed up his hands and said fuck it and lit out.”
“Well. I ain’t tryin to tell you what to think about your own daddy. But seems to me me and you’s a lot alike.”
After writing part time for 40 years, he was finally published when he was 56, which alone should be an inspiration to all struggling authors and songwriters. But the real inspiration can be found in his writing--beautiful, dark, sublime stuff. Here's an essay about his works by William Giraldi at Rumpus.
The Long Home
Provinces of Night: A Novel
I Hate To See the Evening Sun Go Down: Collected Stories
Twilight: A Novel