The Lost Country by William Gay
English | 2018 | General Fiction/Classics | ePUB | 2.1 MB
Ten years after it was first announced, Dzanc is proud to deliver the lost novel from a master of the Southern Gothic—the work William Gay fans have anticipated for a decade.
Billy Edgewater is a harbinger of doom. Estranged from his family, discharged from the Navy, and touched by a rising desperation, he sets out hitchhiking home to East Tennessee, where his father is slowly dying.
On the road separately are Sudy and Bradshaw, brother and sister, and a one-armed con man named Roosterfish. All, in one way or another, have their pasts and futures embroiled with D.L. Harkness, a predator in all the ways there are. Hounded at every turn by scams, vigilantes, grievous loss, and unspeakable violence, Edgewater navigates the long road home, searching for a place that may be nothing but memory.
Hailed as “a seemingly effortless storyteller” by the New York Times Book Review and “a writer of striking talent” by the Chicago Tribune, William Gay, with this long-awaited novel, secures his place alongside Faulkner, O’Connor and McCarthy as one of the greatest novelists in the Southern Gothic tradition.
But our talking was not trifling gossip. It was on our New England trip that William explained to me why Robert Penn Warren’s “Blackberry Winter” was a perfect short story. Said if you removed or added just one word from it, you’d damage it.
Same ride I quoted by heart to him a paragraph from his The Long Home:
Morning. A hot August sun was smoking up over a wavering treeline. Such drunks as were still about struggled up beneath the malign heat slowly as if they moved in altered time or through an atmosphere thickening to amber. The glade was absolutely breezeless and the threat of the sun imminent and horrific. The sweep of the sun lengthened. Windowpanes were lacquered with refracted fire. Sumac fronds hung wilted and benumbed as the whores and smellsmocks rose bedewed from the foxglove and nightshade. Strange creatures, averse or unused to so maledictive a sun, they were heir to a curious fragility, as if left to the depredations of the sun, their very flesh would sear and blacken, their limbs cringe and draw like those of scorched spiders.
Then I asked him how long it took him to compose those lines that scattered my mind and squeezed my chest. “Oh, however long it took me to set it down,” William answered. I called bullshit. And he said, “No. I hung drywall by day when I wrote that book, and I composed whole pages in my head while hanging boards.” Then he confessed that he had a photographic memory for words on pages. Even from other writers’ books. I drove in silence for a mile or two. Considering this man in the passenger seat.
When, short weeks after he died, I read the handwritten manuscript of The Lost Country, what pages had been found by then, and I came across the paragraph that included the book’s title, that time, too, my heart stumbled and I cried for the loss of my friend.
On one of our trips the bed and breakfast the college had lined up for us was, well, dainty, and heavy on the pastels. William went into his room and came right back out again. Didn’t even put down his bag. “Can we go to a motel? I’m afraid I’ll be swarmed and smothered in my sleep by butterflies.” We left. Found a handy motel where I thought up some story for our hosts.
We couldn’t blame our wrong turns on whisky. I never once saw William Gay drunk, co-piloting or not.
But he and I did belly up to a bar now and again. Like the night in Nashville we were parked on stools when three young women came to stand right beside us. They ordered drinks and scanned the room, blessing the barroom’s ambience with their centerfold looks. When they left in a swirl and sway, fifteen minutes later after one round of cocktails, I said, “Did you see that? I mean, those girls were clearly looking for somebody to play with and they did not even glance obliquely in our direction!”