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William Gay’s literary legacy


Author William Gay died last week at the age of 68 and USA Today writes about his career this morning. Gay was the son of Tennessee sharecroppers, and worked as a carpenter and drywall hanger, and yet was a talented writer. He didn’t get anything published until late in life.

He wrote three novels – The Long Home, a morality tale set in the Depression, Provinces of Night, Twilight, and two short story collections.

Gay wrote fiction on and off since he was 13, collecting a stack of increasingly encouraging rejection letters. In 1998, when he was 55, he finally got two short stories published in literary magazines.

Amy Williams, a New York literary agent, read one of Gay’s stories, and says, “by the second paragraph, I was sucked in.” When she tracked him down in his hometown of Hohenwald, Tenn., Gay told her he doubted there was much money in “my kind of writing — about marginal people in marginal settings.”

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Richard Davies

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