One of the most enduring and endearing lyrics in music is the opening line from “The St. Louis Blues.” William Gay chose well for the title of the title story of his collection: I Hate To See That Evening Sun Go Down. It’s a story about alzheimer’s. Dementia. Told from the point of view of the victim. There’s another in this volume. “Those Deep Elm Brown’s Ferry Blues.” There are a couple of more about getting-older-end-of-life matters as well. Not that Gay is obsessed with the subject any more than he is obsessed with frozen corpses or the recurring themes of brutality and stupidity. But one notices because it’s an unusual construct, this dementia from the demented’s pov.
Gay’s own evening sun dropped below the horizon recently. Not from dementia, reportedly, but from a heart attack. I hope he shared with me a preference for that mode rather than the long, slow deterioration of mind and heart that characterizes the disease and his characters.
Meecham in “Evening Sun” is someone you root for. Someone who’s on the side of right against the porcine evil of people like the Choates (Gay’s absolutely great with names. Not all are as obvious as this one, but there’s not a one that doesn’t exactly fit character and story.) who have literally taken his home and hearth. He and the Choates plan each other’s destruction, if not demise. Meecham’s lawyer son is in on the plot against him. Complications ensue. Hell of a story.
As is “Deep Elm’s Ferry,” another man falling victim to a feckless son.
There’s not a bad, or even mediocre story in the lot. Every one both funny and terrifying. There’s a movie called That Evening Sun modeled after the story. Stars Hal Holbrook. Plan to see it soon. Why not you?