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Provinces of Night Provinces of Night by William Gay
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“He wanted her the rest of his life, and failing that, he wanted permission to walk along beside her while she lived it.”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“I have a lot of books and books are better if you can share them.”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“Life blindsides you so hard you can taste the bright copper blood in your mouth then it beguiles you with a gift of profound and appalling beauty.”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“don't start talkin about books or quotin poems at them. these is good folks but they ain't real crazy about readin books. just do what i do and you'll be all right.”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“There was something oddly restful about the fireflies. He couldn't put his finger on it but he drew comfort from it anyway. The way they'd seemed not separate entities but a single being, a moving river of light that flowed above the dark water like its negative image and attained a transient and fragile dominion over the provinces of night.”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“Seems like it's peaceful, just bein' in a country that lays the way you remember it layin”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“Her quickened breath was the very affirmation of life.”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“He began to suspect another, deeper layer of time, a time of stone and cloud and tree to which the time of clocks and calendars was a gross mockery cobbled up by savages. He felt the ways of men fall from him like sundered shackles.”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“All right, he told the snake. I’ll tell you what I’m goin to do. I’m fixin to let you go. But the only people you can go into the world and bite are my enemies. Folks with guns and badges, khaki britches. Prison guards with shotguns. Lawyers, no limit on them. Maybe an undertaker or a insurance salesman every now and then. But no kids. No kids and no folks just tryin to scratch out a livin. You bite one of them, just one, and it’s me and you, I’ll be on your ass like a plague, I’ll finish what I started.”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“She looked at him fondly. You won’t never make much of a liar, she said. I can see right through you like lookin down into still water. I expect law and politics is goin to be out of your reach.”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“Times is always hard for some, the old man observed.”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“He was wishing the past was a place you could backtrack to, take a sideroad you'd walked hurriedly past, wake somebody from a bad dream he was having.”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“He heard footsteps on the ice and just as someone pounded on the door death came swiftly into the trailer like a physical presence. It came swiftly up the steps and turned the knob and so through the door, crossing the linoleum with a sure firm footstep toward where the old man sat on the bed with the pistol in his hand.”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“He lay on the bed and he felt he might never rise from it. He lay in an enormous torpor. The world was too heavy to bear and it was settling itself onto his chest. He felt old, old. Civilizations had risen and fallen in the brief time that he had lived. He felt that when the old man's head exploded across the snow he should have turned the gun on himself.”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“Here within these walls time was of no moment. The walls were adorned with calendars but they had measured years already immured in memory, five years old, ten years old. The house was full of clocks but some of them were stopped and of the ones that worked no two kept a similar hour. A simple request for the time of the day was a cause for consternation, for much comparing of the accuracy of one clock with another to arrive at some approximation of the hour. Here time did not matter. Here another set of rules was in order, out of another century.”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“These hours before first light were merciless. You could not go back to sleep and it was too early to get up and the things you had done or not done lay in your mind immovable as misshapen things you’d erected from stone. There was no give to these hours. They took no prisoners, made no compromises, and the things you had done could not be rationalized into anything save things you had done. The past was bitter and dry and ashes in his mouth, its bone arms clasped him like some old desiccated lover he could not be shut of.”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“Long ago the old man had been helping to dig a grave in a family plot on Grinders Creek and they were inadvertently digging the woman’s grave too near her husband’s casket and Bloodworth’s shovel had disappeared into the rotten wood and the smell that had risen out of this ancient and sacred earth had been the same odor that saturated the trailer and Bloodworth had stood with the shovelhandle in his hands breathing death in a kind of appalled outrage, thinking, so this is what it amounts to, this is what it all comes down to.”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“The day drew on, was swallowed in dusk. No bird called, no insect. Life in abeyance, the world itself grinding to a halt, who knew what would follow. Light through the glass grew dim but he read on as if the passage of day into night was of no moment. The world was winding down, and young Bloodworth wound down with it.”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“It was a place if not hell then certainly the room across the hall from it.”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“He could tell Fleming he was a musician but he could not communicate what the music said to him or said to the people he played it for. The music told itself, it made some obscure connection for which there were no words. The music was its own story, but a man could dip into the vast reservoir of folk and blues lines and phrases and images and construct his own story: though upon performing it and without it losing any relevance to his own life it now belonged to the audience as well. It was something he could not fathom. The old songs with juryrigged verses like bodies cobbled up out of bones from a thousand skeletons. Songs about death and lost love and rambling down the line because sometimes down the line was the only place left. Songs that treated the most desperate of loss with a dark sardonic humour. "I'm going where the climate suits my clothes", the song said, not saying the frustration and despair that created it, saying that in the sheer lonesomeness of the sound, in the old man's driving banjo. There was an eerie timelessness about it that said it could have been written a thousand years ago, or it could have been an unfinished song about events that had not yet played themselves out.”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“Folks called this place haunted, felt the emanations of an unspeakable act moving outward like ripples on water.”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“Bloodworth was not fooled, he had these folks' number, he'd been reading their mail walking a lifetime in their shoes. Beyond the mothriddled light their faces were rapt and transfixed, he sang about death as if it was the only kept promise out of all life's false starts and switchbacks, all there was at the end of the dusty road, his voice told them about calm and quiet and eternal rest. No landlord, no cotton to chop, no ticket at the company store growing like a cancer. Just time itself frozen like leaves in winter ice and nothing in the round world to worry about or dread.”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“No move is the wrong move,
What?
Sometimes any move at all is better than nothin. If you're right, you're one up. If you're wrong you start over. This sittin and waiting for somebody else to make up their mind is for the God-damned birds. You have to take control of your own life.”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“But blood is never left up to you, blood will call to blood. You can’t deny your own kin.”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“Songs about death and lost love and rambling down the line because sometimes down the line was the only place left.”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“What he wanted, he had realized in the last few minutes, was everything. He wanted the rest of her life, and failing that, he wanted permission to walk along beside her while she lived it.”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“You don't learn that, she said. It's just there. It sounds like he spent his whole life trying to unlearn it. Trying to forget it.”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“He went through the back door into the long narrow kitchen, feeling as he always did the sudden onslaught of time, enthralled by the myriad smells of the kitchen: coffee and cloves and cinnamon, the heavy fruity odor of basketed apples and the faintly sour smell of dried peaches, and some other odor, rich and dark and mysterious, that was the odor of time itself, of days the old woman had stacked into years as carefully as a mason lays one stone atop another to construct a wall.”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“a moving river of light that flowed above the dark water like its negative image and attained a transient and fragile dominion over the provinces of night. BOOK THREE”
William Gay, Provinces of Night
“Listen, he said vehemently. Somebody's going to have to say what they really mean and then do what they say they will. All this lying. All this bullshit and pretending. It's just wasting lives, wasting time, everything's just a waste.
She was looking at him curiously. That's just the way people are. The way the world is. What are you trying to do, fix the world?
I don't want to fix the world. Fuck the world. Just the little part of it that I have to live on. You and that old man. Folks starting babies andd walking off like that's got nothing to do with them. People walking off while you're asleep and never coming back. Leaving a note. A Goddamned note. Old people living a half mile apart and wanting to see each other and dying without doing it. Now that's crazy for you. That's what's crazy.”
William Gay, Provinces of Night

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