If you haven’t read Cormac McCarthy please, for the love of all that is holy, close your internet browser, get in your vehicle, drive to the nearest bookstore, knock over a slew of people in your way, and immediately purchase The Road. If that is not available, go with No Country for Old Men or maybe Outer Dark. I have yet to read Blood Meridian, but it is high on my “to-be-read” list. Now then, why all this talk about Cormac McCarthy? Well I will tell you: Because William Gay appears to be Cormac McCarthy-lite. His style is identical. Dark humor in pinches, a lot of effort put into the “bad guy,” the setting is southern, and the atmosphere is foreboding.
Twilight is a novel that should have been a novella. It was recommended to me by uncle, and was requested that I avoid it by my brother. I tend to fall on the side of my brother in this case. The novel starts off so incredibly well. In fact the first 100 pages are so good, and so well-written that I was ready to declare William Gay every bit as good as Cormac McCarthy is. Everything about these first 100 pages is perfect. Perfect pace. Perfect character development. Great plot. It is really something to behold. But when I tell you that the book takes a crushing nosedive in a matter of just 30 more pages, I mean it.
To put it simply, after the set up of the first part of the novel, Twilight is the most disappointing book I’ve ever read. I was begging someone to put me out of my misery. Someone please just come take the book from my hands. Let it befall some unfortunate accident and be burned into ash. If the book had suddenly ended with no resolutions to any of the plots that Gay had built then I would have been just as happy with the book as I am currently. The pages between 100 and 200 read and felt so much like unnecessary filler that anime directors and writers read it for help when they have writer’s block. The book slows down for no reason whatsoever, then when it finally comes back around to the continuation of what was a great story, I found it impossible to care at all about the outcome of the story. It finishes in 230 pages what should have been done in 125. This story could have won the Pulitzer Prize if Gay had just gotten to the point. Unfortunately it feels like Gay came up with 95% of a great story and then didn’t know how to end it. So he kept writing and writing and writing until finally he gave up on figuring out a good ending so he just pulled one out of thin air.
I won’t give up on the late William Gay, but I won’t be reading another of his novels for at least a couple months. When I do, I will be reading his most highly acclaimed work. The first half of Twilight is simply too good to not at least read another of his novels.
Recommended to: Those who enjoy a solid southern gothic novel built upon atmosphere.
Avoid as if it were a Nationwide ad during the Superbowl: Most people. I can’t in good conscience recommend this novel to someone unless they very specifically have a taste for dark, southern writing.