William Gay (on the right) pictured with Richard Flanagan
On October 28, 1999, William Gay came to read at Square Books soon after his first novel, The Long Home, had been published by MacMurray & Beck; he was then fifty-five years old. One could say Gay was a shy man, but he easily found company among the literary and music subculture in Oxford, as well as in its many watering holes. Oxford was a short drive from William's home in Hohenwald, Tennessee, where he had been a laborer, mostly hanging drywall, in this small town of fewer than 4,000. He made frequent visits to Oxford, often staying many days at a time. He was unassuming and soft-spoken, and had, in addition to his broad acquaintance with literature, an encyclopedic knowledge of music and a wry, subtle sense of humor. We immediately took to him as one of our own. Likely because he came to writing late in life, and for so long had been such an avid reader, his novels and stories were perhaps greater than those of many more experienced authors. William appeared at Square Books -- and gave wonderful readings -- for all his subsequent books: Provinces of Night (2000), I Hate To See That Evening Sun Go Down (2002), Wittgenstein's Lolita / The Iceman, and Twilight (2006). Hohenwald will be remembered as the place where Meriwether Lewis ended his own life, the location of The Elephant Sanctuary (the largest natural habitat area for elephants in the U. S.), and the home of William Gay, a great writer and a dear friend to many of us in Oxford.