“𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓶𝓸𝓼𝓽 𝓽𝓮𝓻𝓻𝓲𝓯𝔂𝓲𝓷𝓰 𝓷𝓸𝓿𝓮𝓵 𝔂𝓸𝓾’𝓵𝓵 𝓻𝓮𝓪𝓭 𝓽𝓱𝓲𝓼 𝔂𝓮𝓪𝓻.”
Now there’s a claim that’s hard to refuse!
During the summer I spent a month, entitled 🥀 Southern Spell 🥀 , exploring the southern gothic. I first posted (on Instagram) about William Gay’s Little Sister Death then.
Some of you praised the novel, or declared adoration for the author. One of you went so far as to help me locate a second hand copy online… That knight in gothic armour was Gothic Bookworm, who also grabbed a copy for herself.
We planned to buddy read it this December… But as many of you had expressed an interest in the book, we invited you ALL to join us for a fortnight-long read-along! And thus, the perfect portmanteau was born: Generally Gothic Bookworm.
In my initial post I promised that at the end of the first week (today!) I would share my thoughts so far… But I’m really aware that you may not be halfway through yet; you may still be waiting for your copy to arrive in the post, you may have just this moment decided to join us!
To avoid any spoilers, I am going to keep things vague today. Below you’ll find a little insight into Gay’s background, the book blurb, my spoiler-free feelings so far, and perhaps a few things to consider during your own reading. At the end of the fortnight, I’ll go full spoilers blazing and analyse the redorange-glowing hell out of it!
About the Author
Lesser known American author, William Elbert Gay, served in the navy during the Vietnam War and spent much of his life working as a tradesman. Despite writing since his teens, and continually submitting his work for publication, he did not truly begin his professional writing career until he was in his 50s.
By this point he had returned to Tennessee, where he was born in 1941, would later die in 2012, and much of his work is set. In continually returning to the same realistic yet fictional, mid-century southern location, the comparisons to fellow southern gothic author William Faulkner begin. Gay himself also credited Flannery O’Connor and Cormac McCarthy as influences. There is much to be said about the southern gothic style, and his role amongst these authors, but…spoilers!
Little Sister Death is William Gay’s final novel, published posthumously in 2015.
About the Book
“Little Sister Death is the stunning ‘lost’ horror novel of the late William Gay. Inspired by the famous nineteenth-century Bell Witch haunting of Tennessee, it follows the unravelling life of David Binder, a writer who moves his young family to a haunted farmstead to try and find inspiration for his faltering work…
“Beautifully written and structured, Little Sister Death is a loving and faithful addition to the field of classic horror writing, which aims straight for your soul.”
– Book blurb, Faber & Faber, 2015.
About my Reading
> Whilst my soul (what soul?) is still in tact, my attention is positively captured.
> The text is dotted with literary references, reaffirming my suspicion that Mr Gay was a man of very fine tastes.
> His author character, the protagonist David Binder, is reminiscent of a particular member of horror fiction royalty that I know many of you love… and there’s been talk of this novel sharing similarities with one of his greatest (personal opinion, but isn’t it all?) works!
> The southern gothic influence, stark in the opening chapter, has mellowed somewhat, but I am excited to track its progress (and that of the many, recurring motifs) to see if it returns.
> I am, however, getting some folk horror vibes – I think… I’m no folk horror expert!
> The pace is keeping me satisfied – it is only the limited time I can dedicate to reading that is letting me down.
> Intrigue is my top emotion.
> I am currently at the point where I want to devour Little Sister Death, despite not finding it to be “[t]he most terrifying novel” …yet.
My posts this month are all centered around the theme of Decadence and Decay, with images of Victorian Christmas in mind. This novel, then, feels like it shouldn’t fit at all. Southern gothic literature is wild, its prose are untraditional, its dialogue untethered, and its usually set beneath the stifling southern American sun. So far, however, I’ve been drawing parallels everywhere.
> The gothic potential of a house.
> The implications and associations that this has with Freudian theory.
> The history of the ghost story, a fundamental component of British, Victorian Christmas.
> The narrative framework…
Okay, that’s only four things, but I was surprised to find any at all!
There is no doubt in my mind that this is a straight-up story. I don’t expect it to unravel into a philosophical gem, a life lesson to be learnt BUT the fact that I am thinking deeply and finding these associations speaks volumes for its power as a story. And really, fellow generally gothic book worms, we all know that that in itself is enough.
I have been sharing my daily reading progress through Instagram stories. Both Gothic Bookworm & I have created templates for you to use; if you wish to do the same you can find them here. I find that it keeps me thinking, but it’s just a bit of fun and totally optional. If you do decide to publicly share your thoughts, please tag #generallygothicbookworm, @generallygothic & @gothicbookworm – I don’t want to miss a thing! However you decide to get involved, be it in IG post-thread chats, in the comment section below, through your own posts, blog posts, or privately, I’m just happy to share Little Sister Death with you – I don’t think I’d want her all to myself!