Local Soulsby Allan Gurganus
“This book underscores what we have long known—Gurganus stands among the best writers of our time.” —Ann PatchettThrough memorable language and bawdy humor, Gurganus returns to his mythological Falls, North Carolina, home of Widow. This first work in a decade offers three novellas mirroring today’s face-lifted South, a/em>/p>
“This book underscores what we have long known—Gurganus stands among the best writers of our time.” —Ann PatchettThrough memorable language and bawdy humor, Gurganus returns to his mythological Falls, North Carolina, home of Widow. This first work in a decade offers three novellas mirroring today’s face-lifted South, a zone revolutionized around freer sexuality, looser family ties, and superior telecommunications, yet it celebrates those locals who have chosen to stay local. In doing so, Local Souls uncovers certain old habits—adultery, incest, obsession—still very much alive in our New South, a "Winesburg, Ohio" with high-speed Internet.
Wells Tower says of Gurganus, "No living writer knows more about how humans matter to each other." Such ties of love produce hilarious, if wrenching, complications: "Fear Not" gives us a banker's daughter seeking the child she was forced to surrender when barely fifteen, only to find an adult rescuer she might have invented. In "Saints Have Mothers," a beloved high school valedictorian disappears during a trip to Africa, granting her ambitious mother a postponed fame that turns against her. And in a dramatic "Decoy," the doctor-patient friendship between two married men breaks toward desire just as a biblical flood shatters their neighborhood and rearranges their fates.
Gurganus finds fresh pathos in ancient tensions: between marriage and Eros, parenthood and personal fulfillment. He writes about erotic hunger and social embarrassment with Twain's knife-edged glee. By loving Falls, Gurganus dramatizes the passing of Hawthorne’s small-town nation into those Twitter-nourished lives we now expect and relish.
Four decades ago, John Cheever pronounced Allan Gurganus "the most technically gifted and morally responsive writer of his generation." Local Souls confirms Cheever’s prescient faith. It deepens the luster of Gurganus’s reputation for compassion and laughter. His black comedy leaves us with lasting affection for his characters and the aching aftermath of human consequences. Here is a universal work about a village.
In this first work in 12 years, Gurganus offers three luscious, perceptively written pieces, each as rich as any full-length novel and together exploring the depth of our connections. The teenage girl who loses both father and virginity and takes 20 years to come full circle to the family tie that matters ("Fear Not"); the mother who's sacrificed all for a brilliant, do-gooding daughter worshipped in town even before she goes missing on a trip to Africa ("Saints Have Mothers"); and the not-quite-accepted-as-townie insurance man in an unequal relationship with the revered town doctor ("Decoy")—all are here in Falls, NC. Yes, Falls, the setting of Gurganus's immortal Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All. In all three novellas, there's a pervasive sense of the power of community expectations and the question of whether we can challenge fate. "Fear Not" protagonist Susan escapes hers, while Bill in "Decoys," who says he was "either meant to be or love" Doc Roper, just seems stuck. VERDICT These pieces are so fresh and real that the reader has the sense of walking through a dissolving plate-glass window straight into the lives of the characters. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 3/25/13.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
A witty and soulful trio of novellas by master storyteller Gurganus (Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, 1989, etc.), who claims his place here as the laureate of the Southern cul-de-sac. Falls, N.C.--the setting of Widow and a significant place in other moments of Gurganus-ian geography--is hicksville-turned–gated suburb, the milieu of sometimes-haunted, often dissatisfied souls with secrets to keep. Some of them, nestled among the dogwoods and carefully clipped yards, have seen more than they should. Some have found redemption of a kind, as with the protagonist of a story nested within a story in the opening piece, Fear Not, in which the gentle daughter of a local worthy learns of the son that she had to give up for adoption after having been raped by her godfather. She knew nothing about the child, "one taken without her even discovering its sex," but now, years later, she knows something of life--and all that is packed within just the first "act," as Gurganus calls it. Gurganus manages the neat hat trick of blending the stuff of everyday life with Faulkner-ian gothic and Chekhov-ian soul-searching, all told in assured language that resounds, throughout all three novellas, in artfully placed sententiae: "Some people's futures look so smooth, only sadists would bother delivering even temporary setbacks." "I soon learned: journalism and motherhood are two fields jet-fueled by frequent triage caffeine blasts." This being the South, the Civil War figures in sometimes-odd ways, from a subject of fiction to a matter of quotidian life; in the second novella, indeed, it's recapitulated in the struggle between exes on opposite coasts. Race figures, too, as Gurganus writes of the well-heeled duffers of Falls' premier country club as having "secret kinsmen hidden one or two counties away," a case in point, in a fine "A Rose for Emily" moment, being a "clay-colored" man who now stands among them. Whatever their subject, and told from widely different points of view--male and female, young and old--the novellas have a conversational tone and easy manner that are a testimony to the author's craftsmanship. A gem, like Gurganus' previous collection of novellas, The Practical Heart (2002). Readers will eagerly await the next news out of Falls.
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Meet the Author
Alan Gurganus's, books include White People and Oldest Confederate Widow Tells All. Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Gurganus is a Guggenheim Fellow and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Adaptations of his fiction have earned four Emmys. A resident of his native North Carolina, he lives in a village of six thousand souls.
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I would like my $1.99 and the 45 minutes of my life back. To be fair, I only read the first 31 pages, but it was all I could take. This book got off to an extremely bizarre start, and the writing became monotonous with all the "Let's just say...and then let's just say..." sentences. "Let's just say" that with so many books and so little time, I left Fearnot and the good doc sitting all by themselves in that car on the country lane.
With a dry and dark sense of humor, the author entwines multiple stories of the lives of individuals in a small Southern town.