William Gay (author)
William Gay is an American writer of novels and short stories.

Life and career

Gay was born in Hohenwald, Tennessee
Hohenwald, Tennessee
Hohenwald is a city in and the county seat of Lewis County, Tennessee, United States. The population was 3,754 at the 2000 census. The name "Hohenwald" is a German word that means "High Forest". The town was founded in 1878 and later merged with a town named "New Switzerland" to the south. New...

, which he still calls home. After high school, Gay joined the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 and served during the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

. After returning to the States, he lived in both New York City and Chicago before returning to Lewis County, Tennessee, where he has lived since 1978. Even though he has written since the age of fifteen, Gay did not publish anything until 1998, when two of his short stories were accepted by literary magazines. Before then, Gay made his living as a carpenter, drywall-hanger and house painter.
In 1999, Gay published his first novel, The Long Home. Gay was quickly hyped as "the real thing," a new Larry Brown
Larry Brown (author)
Larry Brown was an American novelist, non-fiction and short story writer. He was a winner of numerous awards including the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters award for fiction, the Lila Wallace-Readers Digest Award, and Mississippi's Governor's Award For Excellence in the Arts...


The Long Home belongs firmly in the gothic tradition of Southern literature
Southern literature
Southern literature is defined as American literature about the Southern United States or by writers from this region...

 (Southern Gothic
Southern Gothic
Southern Gothic is a subgenre of Gothic fiction unique to American literature that takes place exclusively in the American South. It resembles its parent genre in that it relies on supernatural, ironic, or unusual events to guide the plot...

), and the echoes of William Faulkner
William Faulkner
William Cuthbert Faulkner was an American writer from Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner worked in a variety of media; he wrote novels, short stories, a play, poetry, essays and screenplays during his career...

, Thomas Wolfe
Thomas Wolfe
Thomas Clayton Wolfe was a major American novelist of the early 20th century.Wolfe wrote four lengthy novels, plus many short stories, dramatic works and novellas. He is known for mixing highly original, poetic, rhapsodic, and impressionistic prose with autobiographical writing...

, and Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy is an American novelist and playwright. He has written ten novels, spanning the Southern Gothic, Western, and modernist genres. He received the Pulitzer Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction for The Road...

 haunt the prose. Gay displayed a keen sense of storytelling, and his rural characters bring to mind those of Erskine Caldwell
Erskine Caldwell
Erskine Preston Caldwell was an American author. His writings about poverty, racism and social problems in his native South like the novels Tobacco Road and God's Little Acre won him critical acclaim, but they also made him controversial among fellow Southerners of the time who felt he was...

 and Flannery O’Connor. The novel won the 1999 James A. Michener Memorial Prize and sold well enough to start a bidding war for his second novel. Provinces of Night was published in late 2000 and confirmed Gay’s knack for storytelling. It furthermore cemented Gay’s status as the most obvious heir to the Faulkner/McCarthy legacy. In 2002, Gay published a collection of stories, I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down, and in 2006 Gay's third novel, Twilight was published. With its story of a kinky undertaker who hires a hitman to kill a nosy teenager, Twilight is Gay's most obvious Southern Gothic
Southern Gothic
Southern Gothic is a subgenre of Gothic fiction unique to American literature that takes place exclusively in the American South. It resembles its parent genre in that it relies on supernatural, ironic, or unusual events to guide the plot...

 novel to date.

Gay’s fiction is almost always set in the rural South of the 1940s and 50s. This alone lends it an air of old-fashioned authenticity similar to that of Faulkner and O’Connor. Gay's South is as darkly violent and as dirt-poor as anything by Caldwell or O’Connor. Gay's novels take the shape of coming-of-age stories. His three novels depict young idealistic boys that turn into men through a series of violent encounters in which they must make tough moral decisions to face and defeat the evil they are up against. Another recurrent theme in Gay's fiction is his preoccupation with marginal characters; "plain folk" such as carpenters, bootleggers, etc.

Gay's stories have been anthologized extensively, and aside from his fictional work, Gay frequently contributes essays on music to magazines such as Paste
Paste (magazine)
Paste is a monthly music and entertainment digital magazine published in the United States by Wolfgang's Vault. Its tagline is "Signs of Life in Music, Film and Culture."-History:...

and Oxford American
Oxford American
The Oxford American is an American quarterly literary magazine "dedicated to featuring the very best in Southern writing while documenting the complexity and vitality of the American South."-First publication:...

. His forthcoming novel will be entitled The Lost Country.

William Gay was named a 2007 USA Ford Foundation Fellow and awarded a $50,000 grant by United States Artists
United States Artists
United States Artists is an independent nonprofit and nongovernmental philanthropic organization based in Los Angeles, California and dedicated to supporting the work of living American artists by the granting of cash awards, called USA Fellowships...

, a public charity that supports and promotes the work of American artists.


  • 1999: The Long Home - (MacMurray & Beck).

  • 2000: Provinces of Night - (Doubleday).

  • 2002: I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down - (Free Press).

  • 2006: Wittgenstein's Lolita/The Iceman: Short Stories from William Gay - (Wild Dog Press).
    • This little collection also includes an afterword by J.M. White that provides the most accurate biographical information on Gay available so far.

  • 2006: Twilight - (MacAdam/Cage).

  • Forthcoming: Lost Country - (MacAdam/Cage).

External links

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