‘Local Souls’ Reviewed in the Miami Herald

Allan Gurganus, the fearfully gifted Southern writer, has not been idle over the past 10 years; he’s simply in no rush to get his fiction to press. “Some people publish a book a year,” he notes on his website. “I consider that about as unseemly as having a baby every ten months.”

Obviously, his sense of humor remains intact, as does his insistence on marching to his own delightfully idiosyncratic bugle corps. The author of Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, lauded as a masterpiece, and the sublime story collection White People, now brings us Local Souls, his collection of three novellas set in the small town of Falls, N.C. (also the hometown in Oldest Living Confederate Widow). While geography glues these three tales together, even more binding are the themes of parents and children and the ever-present specter of death.

Read more at the Miami Herald


Allan Gurganus on NPR’s The State of Things

September 25, 2013

Allan Gurganus talked with Frank Stasio about new book Local Souls on “The State of Things” – Listen here

Publication Day is Here!

Local SoulsToday, September 23rd, is publication day for Local Souls, Allan Gurganus’s new book. Buy it at your local bookseller or on Amazon. Allan will be touring in support of the book throughout the fall – look for him here!

Allan Gurganus is Back…With a Bang

by D.G. Martin

Say Allan Gurganus’s name in a group of readers, and several may tell you that the Rocky Mount native’s “Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All” is their favorite novel of all time.

“Widow” came out in 1989, followed in 1990 by “Plays Well with Others.” Then there were a couple of short story collection, including “White People,” but no other new books from Gurganus in many years.

So, what has he been doing? “Writing, every day,” he says, “and getting up at 6 a.m. to do it.”

Finally, next week we can buy and read a new Gurganus book, one that takes us back to the fictional eastern North Carolina town of Falls, where “Widow” and many of his short stories have been set.

“Local Souls” is not a novel, but three separate novellas. All are set in Falls, but the characters and stories are independent and quite different.

Susan, the main character in the first novella, “Fear Not,” is a 14-year-old all-American girl growing up in Falls when her father dies in a boating accident. Seduced and made pregnant by her godfather, she gives up her baby, pulls her life together, later marries, has two children, and leads a normal life until she is reunited with the child she gave up. Then her life is transformed in a surprising and puzzling way, one that only Gurganus could conjure up.

In the second novella, “Saints Have Mothers,” a divorced woman, smart and ambitious enough to have published a poem in The Atlantic magazine, has two boys and a 17-year-old girl. The daughter is more committed to serving those in need than she is to her mother. But her mother’s life is wrapped up in hopes for her daughter’s future. When the daughter announces that she plans to go to Africa on a service project, the mother objects. But the daughter goes anyway. Communication with her daughter is spotty until a middle of the night phone call brings word of the daughter’s death. As the mother and the Falls community prepare for a memorial service, Gurganus brings the story to a shocking and touching conclusion.

The third novella, “Decoy,” is the history of a relationship between two men. One is a beloved family doctor, part of an established Falls family. The other is a newcomer, who came from the poverty of struggling farm life, but has achieved modest financial success and near acceptance by Falls’s elite. When the doctor retires, their friendship is disturbed and then swept away by a “Fran-like” flood that destroys both men’s homes and much of Falls.

With these three stories, Gurganus demonstrates that he has not lost the story-telling power that propelled him to fame.

And he leaves us hoping that we will not have to wait so long for his next offering.

Others agree. John Irving, author of “The World According to Garp,” writes, “Gurganus’s storytelling is flawless. His narration becomes a Greek chorus, Sophocles in North Carolina. Gurganus makes the preternatural feel natural. Sexual taboos, a parent’s worst fears: these emerge in tones comic and horrifying. Each novella delivers an ending of true force.”

Ann Patchett, author of “Bel Canto” and a former student of Gurganus, says he “breathes so much life into the town of Falls, North Carolina, his reader is able to walk down the streets and mingle with the local souls. This book underscores what we have long known—Gurganus stands among the best writers of our time.”

More important than this praise, Gurganus’s fiction gives us a true look at our fellow North Carolinians in a struggling region as they cope with the challenges of contemporary times.


Virginia Quarterly Review

A new story, “The Deluxe $19.95 Walking Tour of Historic Falls (NC)—Light Lunch Inclusive” appears in the Fall issue of “The Virginia Quarterly Review.”

Bull: Men’s Fiction

The September issue of “Bull: Men’s Fiction” will feature Jarrett Haley’s in-depth cover interview with Gurganus.

The Oxford American

The September issue of “The Oxford American”  features William Giraldi’s epic ten-thousand word profile about the making of “Local Souls”: “The Dead Tell Him Stories: The Return of Allan Gurganus.”  The essay is illustrated with ambrotypes of the author at home. Photographer Harry Taylor used glass plate negatives in an 1870’s tripod camera. These haunting portraits required three-minute exposures, made possible only by a hidden head-clamp. Giraldi, author of the novel “Busy Monsters”, is a leading authority on Gurganus’s life and prose. His appreciation “The Searing: On the Fiction of Allan Gurganus”, appeared earlier this year in “Salmagundi.”


Indy Week

Allan Gurganus is one of our best-known local writers, but you haven’t seen a new title in a bookstore in a long while. That will change this fall with the release of Local Souls, his first new book since Plays Well With Others in 1997.

The return to the public eye doesn’t mean the Hillsborough resident has been out of sight, however. Have you spotted him at the protests this summer at the North Carolina General Assembly, perchance?

Read more here

Local Souls Release Date September 23rd

Pre-order Here

With the meteoric success of Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, Allan Gurganus placed himself among America’s most original and emotionally engaged storytellers. If his first comic novel mapped the late nineteenth-century South, Local Souls brings the twisted hilarity of Flannery O’Connor kicking into our new century.

Through 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. For upcoming interviews or essays by Gurganus in “Library Journal”, “Kirkus Review”, “The Wall Street Journal” and “The New York Times Book Review” online website and “The New York Times”.