Scott Brown
November 22, 2002 AT 05:00 AM EST

I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down

Current Status
In Season
William Gay
Fiction, Short Stories

We gave it an B+

If Poe and Faulkner somehow spawned a child, then drowned it in the River Styx and crammed it in a freezer to hide the evidence, whatever thawed out 10 years later might smell something like Gay’s pungently necrotic short fiction. The author of Provinces of Night has adopted a brisker, cleaner style in this collection, but that doesn’t mean he’s stopped trading in rich, portentous Southernisms: A cardinal in flight, for example, is ”abrupt and startling as a spatter of blood.” But be warned: A little Gay goes a long way. His idea of comic irony is an old man who tries to frame a tenant for arson and fricassees himself instead. Like moonshine and hemlock, these heart stompers are best taken in shots, separated by plenty of recovery time.

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