Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Little Sister Death

Little Sister Death
William Gay

I hate giving any work by Gay (one of my favorite authors) only three stars, but this one was published after his death and is obviously an unfinished manuscript. It’s the story of a writer who comes to live in Tennessee to write about a haunting known as the queen of the haunted dell--a legend or story famous to most Tennesseans and others across the country. But the writer’s complete story is never told. 

The title comes from Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. Editors worked from Gay’s hand-written and typed notes and filled in a history of the story, but although Gay’s lyrical prose is present, the book seemed not ready for publication. And the Gothic tale is very, very gloomy and features macabre violence.  

But the introduction by Tom Franklin, a friend of Gay’s and a fellow writer, was worth the price of the book. I spent a day in William Gay’s home three years prior to his passing and found him just as Tom described. He showed me his book and music collection and one of his paintings. He also told me about his completed manuscript The Lost Country, which still remains unpublished. Guess Dzanc (publisher of this one)decided to go with this one first. 

Gay told me of his troubles with his publisher at the time (not Dzanc) on The Lost Country, but he did not mention this manuscript. I don’t think he would have wanted it published in this form, because he was a perfectionist.  His haunting prose and descriptions are here, but it is just not his best work.