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Provinces of Night


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About the Author

William Gay lives in Hohenwald, Tennessee. His work has appeared in the Georgia Review, the Oxford Review, and The Best American Mystery Stories 2001. He is the author of the novels The Long Home and Provinces of Night. Reviewing Provinces of Night, the New York Times Book Review wrote that 'Gay writes with the wisdom and patience of a man who has witnessed hard times . . . he looks upon beauty and violence with equal measure and makes an accurate accounting of how much of each the human heart contains'.


Like one of Wallace Stevens's best-known poems, Gay's (The Long Home) second novel begins with a jar on a hill in TennesseeDonly this one appears to contain tiny human bones. That's a suitably ominous prelude to the dark saga of the Bloodworth clan, which revolves mostly around 17-year-old Fleming, an aspiring writer trying to evade the family legacy of violence and self-destruction. It is 1952 and his father, Boyd, has left their decrepit mountain home "seventy miles back of Nashville" for Detroit, not to work in an automobile factory like the other "hillbillies" but to search forDand killDthe peddler who has run off with his wife. Meanwhile, Fleming's grandfather, E.F. Bloodworth, a blues musician, is on his way home after having suffered a "stroke of paralysis" 20 years earlier. His handsome Uncle Warren, a former war hero now at loose ends, is a dissipated womanizer with an even more dissolute and unstable son, and his Uncle Brady "witches" for water, tells fortunes and casts hexes on those who do him wrong. Even as the Tennessee Valley Authority is moving in to clear and flood their valley and bring in "the electricity," Fleming's relatives and neighbors live by the backwoods code of violence exemplified by E.F., a man whose exploits are legendary among the locals. Only Raven Lee Halfacre, the 16-year-old daughter of a promiscuous alcoholic and the "prettiest girl in a three county area," offers the boy a glimpse of another way of life. Fleming's name echoes that of one of Faulkner's most memorable characters, and Gay's prose resembles that of Faulkner at his most florid. His stylistic quirksDespecially his refusal to set off dialogue with quotation marksDtake some getting used to, but the pitch-perfect rendition of the cadences of Southern speech and deeply poetic descriptions of the landscape more than compensate. (Dec. 26) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

'Gay's writing is earth-toned, pungent, deeply rooted in the remote corner of Tennessee... Provinces of Night shows an author with a powerful vision and plenteous veins of material.' Richard Bernstein, New York Times 'There's not a word wasted in this living, breathing narrative populated by strongly-drawn characters... a fresh, original lament for the traces of the old South. Gay's vivid prose and dramatic instinct create lasting images and human moments of genius. This is a far bigger book than many novels twice its size, and it deserves its place in a rich tradition.' Eileen Battersby, Irish Times

After a hugely successful debut with The Long Home, Gay delivers another remarkable literary powerhouse. Gay re-creates the sights and sounds of rural Tennessee, which soon becomes home for the reader. Home, in this case, is a place of great emotional turmoil as three generations of Bloodworths struggle to love and leave one another. All of the Bloodworths but young Fleming seem to be either crazy or on their way there. Fleming, however, is captivated by his infamous grandfather, a crusty, caustic blues guitarist, who after 20 years of wandering has returned to settle his affairs before he dies. Even as he struggles to understand his family's irreconcilable views of the old man, Fleming grows attached to him. It is through his grandfather's music that Fleming encounters the beautiful and careless Raven Lee, who offers him the only chance he has ever had to change his future. Full to the hilt with deeply engrossing characters and surroundings, this novel will surely capture the hearts and minds of any reader.DShannon Haddock, Bellsouth Corporate Lib. & Business Research Ctr., Birmingham, AL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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