Saturday, August 31, 2013

Locally Grown

ISBN-10: 087140379X ISBN-13: 9780871403797 Published: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 09/01/2013 Pages: 352 Language: English
Well, we've been waiting a long time for this one. Next month, Hillsborough novelist and local fixture Allan Gurganus will be publishing his first new book in 16 years, a collection of three novellas titled Local Souls. It's worth noting at this point that he will doing a reading at Flyleaf on November 4, so get your questions ready. I'd also recommend the excellent cover article printed in the newest Indy Week and accessible online. There are a number of choice quotations from Mr. Gurganus featured in the article, but I particularly enjoyed this one:

"If you can break through the codes of the middle class, and get the passwords, and get inside how people live their lives every day, you find that it's as dramatic as the people who are climbing Everest or going in bathyspheres three miles down into the ocean.

"Sometimes, to me, waiting in line to pick your kids up from school can be as awesome and inspiring or exhausting as anything else in the world. That's sort of where I've pitched my tent. And it's a nearly inexhaustible source of fascination."

That's a perfect description of how Local Souls' novellas expand small-scale conflicts and let the reader see the infinite complexities of emotion and human psychology contained inside of them. For instance, while one of the novellas is ostensibly about a massive flood, it is much more concerned with the intricate, somewhat one-sided relationship between one of the Fallen (residents of Gurganus' fictional small town Falls, N.C.) and the retired town doctor. Here's where another quote from the Indy Week article comes to mind: 

"There's a real sense of belonging, a real sense of knowingness that extends beyond what can be said about any given person or family," he says. "And I'm fascinated with public secrets about certain people in the town that were kept. In a town of 24,000—the size of Rocky Mount when I was a child—a lot of eccentricity was allowed. A lot of exceptions were made precisely because your family had lived there for so many years that people had gotten used to the eccentricities."

You see, after retiring, the former-doctor becomes fascinated with carving wooden ducks, a field in which he proves inexplicably talented. The town starts to find his hobby slightly isolating, perhaps even elitist, especially after his having been so available to the community as their doctor. This small, odd change has a tremendous effect on his neighbor, who starts to question the nature of their previous relationship, and, indeed, his own intrinsic value, if his company and friendship can be so easily discarded. It's just like Mr. Gurganus to show how even retreating into semi-hermitage has profound effects on those around you-- true isolationism, however desirable, is essentially impossible. Maybe that's why the article depicts Mr. Gurganus in dual roles: the civic-minded, politically active member of society, and the solitary writer who works beside a Confederate graveyard, quietly chipping away at his next masterpiece.

No comments:

Post a Comment