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2014 Book Discussions > Provinces of Night - Spoiler Free (August 2014)

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message 1: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments This will be the place to discuss Provinces of Nightwithout spoilers.


message 2: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2319 comments I thought folks might be interested in this obituary of William Gay from the NY Times for some quick background on the author -- http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/01/art... -- with whom I was not familiar before this book was chosen.


message 3: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
Linda, thank you for that link. As I read Provinces of Night, I have been marveling at the beautiful prose, and wondering, "who is this guy and how come I never heard of him."


message 4: by Sandra (new)

Sandra | 114 comments Yes, I've just started reading and the writing is so poetic and beautiful... Even if, as it seems so far, the story is going to be moody and dark.


message 5: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments Before we begin, I will make a personal admission. This might be my favorite book I've read in years. I thought this book was perfect.


message 6: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
Sandra, the moody and dark is leavened with a lot of humor and snark. I finished the book last night, and I loved it.


message 7: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2319 comments Have to agree with Deborah and Casceil, this is a great book. I enjoyed it immensely. Looking forward to discussing it!


message 8: by Deborah (last edited Aug 01, 2014 07:34AM) (new)

Deborah | 983 comments One of the things that struck me early on was the pacing. Did it feel unhurried to you?

For me it unfolded in a slow unwinding that did not drag, and I think that is a difficult thing to accomplish.

Which other authors do this well?


message 9: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
The pacing felt unhurried to the point that I felt like the stories kind of snuck up on me. I would be reading along, completely caught up in the writing, and suddenly something violent or very emotional would happen in the story.


message 10: by Sandra (new)

Sandra | 114 comments Not only that, but I had no idea whatsoever where the story was going to go. It led to some places I did not expect.


message 11: by Sophia (last edited Aug 04, 2014 05:40AM) (new)

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments The pacing, to my mind, echoed the location of the rural setting. Ever so slow... But with more than enough interest to keep me hooked - not least because the prose is stunning. I took my time reading this; I wanted to really savour it. I agree with Deborah; this is probably the best book I've read this year.


message 12: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments Sophia wrote: "The pacing, to my mind, echoed the location of the rural setting. Ever so slow... But with more than enough interest to keep me hooked - not least because the prose is stunning. I took my time r..."

I think that sums up my thoughts really well. I felt like I was moving in the dreamy laconic sweetness of Akerman's Field time.

Sandra wrote: "Not only that, but I had no idea whatsoever where the story was going to go. It led to some places I did not expect."

Me too. And somewhere along the way, I felt like I'd go anywhere with him, anywhere the author wanted to take me was alright.


message 13: by Ben (new)

Ben Rowe (benwickens) | 89 comments Well I am just getting started, only just read the prologue but looking forward to it.


message 14: by Peter (new)

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments I'm not as much of a prose fan as some on this website, but is is gorgeous in this book at times. And the author makes me interested in the characters. They have a solidness to them that's appealing.


message 15: by Sophia (new)

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments There's a real depth to them, which is largely achieved through the use of dialogue.


message 16: by Linda (new)

Linda | 71 comments I just ordered my book, as my library did not have it nor the local used bookstore. Can't wait to read this one as everyone's comments are encouraging!


message 17: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments Well, it happens. People rave about a book and you pick it up and wonder if they've all lost their mind or you have. The answer is none of the above. Different people, different taste.


message 18: by Jan (new)

Jan Notzon | 100 comments Talia: I understand your feelings about the style, although I am one who enjoys evocative imagery. I also was not wild about the novel. Especially in the first two books, the story seemed kind of desultory to me; kind of a poor man's Cormac McCarthy. It did pick up for me in books three and four, however.


message 19: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments Jan, I am so glad you said that. This was a talking point I hoped to reach.

Many reviewers accuse Gay of imitating McCarthy. How do they seem similar? How are they different? And more broadly where is the line between influence, paying homage and derivation?


message 20: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2319 comments Deborah wrote: "Jan, I am so glad you said that. This was a talking point I hoped to reach.

Many reviewers accuse Gay of imitating McCarthy. How do they seem similar? How are they different? And more broadly wher..."


I read those reviews but must say that I don't see the imitation. I've only read No Country for Old Men and The Road by McCarthy, but Provinces of the Night doesn't seem to be imitating either. There may be some commonalities but I do not see imitation.


message 21: by Sandra (new)

Sandra | 114 comments I see the similarities in their writing. It struck me immediately as I started the book. What seems similar, to me, is in the way both Gay and McCarthy write about something that can be considered inherently ugly but write about it in a way that is very poetic and beautiful. This is most apparent in McCarthy's Blood Meridian, a chilling and terrible novel that has some of the most stunning description of the desert southwest. All that horror and killing and carnage amid the endlessly poetic description of the austere and terrible environment in which it takes place just left me in awe. I feel the same way about Provinces of Night. The story is kind of bleak and in a way sad but his poetic language kind of soothes the soul. Gay has much more of a sense of humor, though. McCarthy can be kind of harsh and leave you feeling bruised!


message 22: by Sophia (new)

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments I am also a fan of McCarthy. I agree his writing can make you feel bruised. I consider that Gay's writing is lighter. It is downright funny on occasions!

To my mind Gay's writing is more like William Faulkner's: in the tradition of grandiose fatalism. However, he use uses far, far fewer words, whilst having a real flair for them.

There is indeed a fine line to be drawn between "influence, paying homage and derivation." I suspect Gay has been influenced by both Faulkner and McCarthy - how could he not be? But I feel that that he has matured into a writer with his own distinctive voice. There is a psychological depth to Gay's writing that doesn't rely on extensive streams of consciousness and the narration is relatively straightforward and unambiguous.


message 23: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
I, too, found Gay's writing reminiscent of Faulkner, but with much simpler sentences. Faulkner's sentences seem long and winding and complicated, and force you to hold several ideas in your head until you get to the end of the sentence, when you can sort out how the different parts relate to each other. Gay's prose style is much more direct and easier to read. But there is something about the mood of Gay's writing that reminds me very much of the feeling Faulkner creates.


message 24: by Jan (new)

Jan Notzon | 100 comments Well, it was more of a feeling than an analysis. If you read the McCarthy set in Tennessee, e.g. The Orchard Keeper, Suttree, I think the similarity is unmistakable. And, by the way, I wish I could write like Cormac McCarthy or William Gay. There is extraordinary prose/imagery in both. I also agree that Gay a sense of humor. McCarthy has a sense of...bloodlust? darkness? nihilism? I suppose I just feel like the gravitas of McCarthy somehow better...not justifies but, perhaps, warrants the incredible imagery--and boy, is it incredible.
Of course, de gustibus non es disputandem. Some people like a lighter-handed approach and story. My belief is, if you like it, it's good.


message 25: by Peter (new)

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments One curious thing about this book -- I find the dialect that the characters use affects my inner voice. Heck, it even affects my word choice, slightly, but noticeably when I speak out loud. I don't know if it just gets under my skin that effectively, or it is because the dialog isn't safely locked away within quotation marks, but somehow it does it.


message 26: by Sophia (new)

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments I found that when I read Cormac McCarthy's 'Border Trilogy' - so now I'm thinking Jan may have a point... (!)


message 27: by Marina (new)

Marina Todeasa (marinaofthesea) | 1 comments Hello... I've just joined this group and have decided to read Provinces of Night with you. I am enjoying the discussion so far and will join in once I get a little further into the book (page 23 right now)


message 28: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments Great to have you, Marina.


message 29: by Jan (new)

Jan Notzon | 100 comments Welcome, Marina!


message 30: by Linda (new)

Linda | 71 comments Finally received my book yesterday and began reading! I have to say, the lack of quotation marks initially threw me off a little, but I'm getting into the style of writing a bit more now.


message 31: by Carl (new)

Carl | 287 comments After reading just a bit, I thought I'd been thrown back 40 years and was reading Suttree or Faulkner. It's a bit jarring when you think he wrote it in the last ten years, but in considering his main literary heroine was O'Connor, it's understandable. Also, there is something very charming about writing by people who aren't warped by the high brow lit folks. I understand he does stuff with plots that they teach you not to do in school but that work very well.


message 32: by Linda (new)

Linda | 71 comments This is my first read with this group, and I was wondering how the discussions are normally set up? I see two threads for this book, one with and one without spoilers. So far I have read book I, so about a quarter of the way through. Is the thread with spoilers for the entire book? I don't want to start reading that thread with the intent to add my input or read about what others have to say with the fear of reading a spoiler for a part I have not come to yet. Or is the thread sort of chronological, so people are posting as they are reading?

Sorry for the question, it's just that the other groups I have read with so far break the books into smaller parts for discussion as the book is being read, so I wasn't quite sure how people in this group approached the discussion. Thanks!


message 33: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments Each mod does it differently. I only did two threads. Next time I can add more if needed. Or I can just open a new thread now. There are some spoilers, but the discussion has been pretty general so far. It's still early in the month.
Are you enjoying it so far?


message 34: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments Carl, what do you mean about the plots?


message 35: by Linda (new)

Linda | 71 comments Thanks Deborah! I will try looking at the other thread then. Yes, I'm enjoying this book very much so far - I have liked Fleming's story line the most. But I think the book has mostly grabbed me by the descriptions of various things - settings, people. I should have underlined a few of my favorites, I will have to go back to find them and pull them out. The lack of quotations threw me for a loop initially, but I've gotten into the simplistic style of writing and there is a nice rhythm to it, and the lack of quotations seem to allow the rhythm to flow easier. It's a much different style of writing than I've been used to lately (I've read a lot of Victorian classics lately).


message 36: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
Every book is different, and when I set up discussions, I try to figure out what will work best for the particular book we are discussing. For this book, discussion has been pretty general in the spoiler thread, but if you have just finished part one, you should probably stick with this thread. If you want to comment on a specific event in the book that might be a spoiler for someone, mark your comment as a spoiler with an indication where it is in the book, such as "in part three (view spoiler)


message 37: by Linda (new)

Linda | 71 comments Casceil - thanks for the tips. I'll stick to this thread for now per your recommendation.

Carl - I'm also interested in what you mean by Gay doing things with plots that writers are taught not to do. I enjoy reading a variety of books, but am in no means an expert in writing or literature (rather, I'm far from it). These reading groups have been a great way for me to look at the books I'm reading from different perspectives.


message 38: by Linda (new)

Linda | 71 comments I just finished Book 2 and am enjoying the storyline more as the various characters have come together. By the end of Book 2 it really hit me how (view spoiler)


message 39: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
While I was reading this, I wondered if parts of it were semi-autobiographical, particularly the part about the typewriter. Gay didn't have anything published until he was in his fifties, but I would bet he had been writing for a long time at that point.


message 40: by LindaJ^ (last edited Aug 16, 2014 02:24PM) (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2319 comments Casceil wrote: "While I was reading this, I wondered if parts of it were semi-autobiographical, particularly the part about the typewriter. Gay didn't have anything published until he was in his fifties, but I wo..."

Indeed he had! Before reading the book, I read a number of the articles published after he died and they included background on his writing efforts.

BTW, I am the other Linda!


message 41: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments As an aging writer, I have to say it gives me hope that maybe I'll actually get something done before I die.


message 42: by Jan (new)

Jan Notzon | 100 comments You hang in there, Deborah. It's pulling teeth to find the time amid all the distractions that life keeps putting in the way. You'll get there.


message 43: by Whitney (last edited Aug 23, 2014 09:51PM) (new)

Whitney | 2104 comments Mod
I've finally started this book. Liking it a lot, and loving this discussion. I fully agree with what Jan and Carl said about the prose being reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy's earlier works. Suttree and The Orchard Keeper were the two that came to my mind immediately as well. In general, it seems to be in keeping with what to my mind in the Southern Gothic style in general; i.e. frequently ornate or lavish prose contrasting with the laconicism of most of the characters.

As an aside to Linda, I can see why you aren't finding the similarities with McCarthy. No Country for Old Men and The Road are very different from his other books, especially his earlier ones set in Tennessee.


message 44: by Joy (new)

Joy Rose (joyrosep) | 2 comments While I agree the evocative imagery is compelling, I felt it overshadowed the characters and plot. Overall though, I enjoyed the book and did feel immersed in the setting.


message 45: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
I'm interested in your comment that the "evocative imagery" "overshadowed" the characters. For me, I think nature sort of was a character in this book. Nature had a power that shaped the lives of the characters. Fleming, and to a lesser extent, his father, seemed more attuned to nature. Other characters seemed to sort of treat nature as an obstacle to be overcome.


message 46: by Sue (new)

Sue Linda wrote: "I thought folks might be interested in this obituary of William Gay from the NY Times for some quick background on the author -- http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/01/art......"

Interesting man this William Gay. It seems he led a sort of "pieced-together life, just as some of his characters. A late bloomer to authorship. Love the neighbor's comment at the end but also found it sad.


message 47: by Sue (new)

Sue Just finished Book 1. The writing is extraordinary. The stories, eccentric, if I may use that word. I feel as though someone has taken me by the hand for a very slow but intriguing and interesting walk and didn't tell me where we are going.


message 48: by Linda (new)

Linda | 71 comments Sue wrote: "I feel as though someone has taken me by the hand for a very slow but intriguing and interesting walk and didn't tell me where we are going."

I like your comment here, Sue. It captures the feeling I had, but unable to put into words.

I took a short break after reading Book 2, but just started reading Book 3 this morning.


message 49: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2319 comments Whitney wrote: "As an aside to Linda, I can see why you aren't finding the similarities with McCarthy. No Country for Old Men and The Road are very different from his other books, especially his earlier ones set in Tennessee. "

Thanks Whitney. I guess I will need to check out earlier McCarthy books!


message 50: by Jan (new)

Jan Notzon | 100 comments Joy wrote: "While I agree the evocative imagery is compelling, I felt it overshadowed the characters and plot. Overall though, I enjoyed the book and did feel immersed in the setting."


Good point about the imagery rather taking center stage. That's kind of what I meant about McCarthy's stories warranting the intense imagery.


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