LOST AND FOUND - A ROUND TABLE DISCUSSION ON WILLIAM GAY’S LITERARY LEGACY
Introduction by J.M. White
An earlier version of this roundtable discussion, conducted via email, was hosted by Suzanne Kingsbury and published in the Chattahoochee Review, Fall 2018/Winter 2019, Volume XXXVIII, Numbers 2 & 3 by Perimeter College at Georgia State University. It dealt primarily with the story off finding and editing the manuscript of William Gay’s novel The Lost Country.
For the purposes of this publication, I have broadened the scope of the conversation to include all the posthumous works that have come to light so far.
These include Little Sister Death, Stoneburner, The Lost Country, Fugitives of the Heart and now this collection of short stories. The publication of this collection of short stories marks the fifth book published from the William Gay archive.
Soon after William’s death in 2012 I was asked by the family to review his archive and was totally surprised to find such a wealth of material. He had been writing all his life and had managed to save most of what he wrote. He came into his own stylistically when he was in his thirties and was writing at the peak of his performance from then until his death but, ironically, he didn’t get anything published until he was fifty-nine years old. Consequently, most of the material he wrote from age thirty to age fifty-nine was in the archive.
Working on The Lost Country was our first project since there was a contract on the book, and it was much anticipated by his readers. A small group of people formed organically and, more-or-less spontaneously, to work together to get this material typed and edited. These included Susan McDonald, Shelia Kennedy, Lamont Ingalls, Paul Nitsche and me. Michelle Dotter at Dzanc Press entered the picture fairly early and brought the resources of Dzanc Press to bear on the project. This basic team prepared The Lost Country and Little Sister Death in rapid succession. As more time passed and this material began to be read people would get in contact and the team began to expand to include Matt Snope, an English professor who specializes in Southern Literature, Dawn Major, who wrote a master’s thesis on William and George Dilworth who turned out to be an eagle-eyed proofreader. Joe Tidwell is a Southern writer and playwright who has been transforming William’s books into scripts and showing them around Hollywood. Greg Hobson, a professional photographer and graphic designer, supplied original photos and some graphic design. Randy Mackin teaches English literature at MTSU and had William lecture at his classes and Brodie Lowe and Jon Sokol are Southern writers who also helped with this collection. Suzanne Kingsbury and Sonny Brewer were both close friends of William and both contributed along the way as well.
What follows is the roundtable convened by Suzanne Kingsbury for the Chattahoochee Review article re-edited with new material. Suzanne put together some questions, which appear in bold script, and sent them out to the people who had been involved in The Lost Country editing process. I have added some new questions (my questions are bold and in italics to distinguish them from Suzanne’s original questions) and sent them out to the original team of editors plus Matt Snope, George Dilworth, Joe Tidwell, Randy Mackin, Greg Hobson and Dawn Major. This expanded the scope of the original roundtable to include everyone who had a direct hand in the editing process and broadened the scope of the roundtable to include all William’s posthumous works.