Stories from the Attic by William Gay
Exemplifying the best of short fiction these stories and fragments, accompanied by biographical information of the most compelling sort will please fans of the author and convert those who have not already read his work.
Until this book came into my hands I was unaware of William Gay. I am glad to say that I now know what to look for. This astonishingly potent writing is everything a reader of short fiction could desire. His stories are dark and the characters are not happy people, but the message is always the same: everyone has troubles and sometimes they overwhelm us, but our humanity remains. These are, for the most part, simple folk trying to live the best they can, even if their best falls outside of the moral lane markers society imposes. Some are downright evil. Just like life. His work has repeatedly and aptly been compared to that of Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor and Cormac McCarthy.
A wonderful bonus in this work is the biographical information about the author who had a sad life and was inadequately recognized during his time on earth, apart from some astute literary types who could see the beauty in his bleak tales. Where he worked, how he lived, who praised him and who didn’t, how his work came to light; all is revealed in what is certainly a heartbreaking story of an unheralded genius. This reader will be seeking out as many of his books as possible.
Some pieces published here are fragments only, but it is of little matter that some are unfinished: what remains is profoundly moving. The editor was fortunate to be allowed to sift through the randomly stored and un-numbered pages of work stashed in an attic for years and which barely escaped destruction, an eventuality which would have been tragic. The account of the discovery of boxes of random papers carelessly pushed aside is worthy of its own chronicle, and the treasures which emerged from the exhausting work of sorting, identifying and organizing it all is an epic tale.
These entries exemplify what is best in short fiction: quick gut punches that leave the reader breathless and wondering how so much power can be packed into so few words. Gay’s work stands with the best of the form, and it is a boon to the world of literature that these have come to light.