’A writer’s truest reward is simply to continue’

Jan. 30, 2014 @ 06:29 AM

If you were Hillsborough’s Allan Gurganus, you would probably want to kick back and rest a little bit after touring around the country visiting book stores and book groups to talk about the new book, “Local Souls.”
The three novellas in the book have gained glowing critical attention across the country.
Reviewer Jamie Quatro wrote in The New York Times, “It’s been 12 years since Gurganus last published a full-length work -- but if there remains any doubt of his literary greatness, his fifth book, ‘Local Souls,’ should put it to rest forever. A triptych of novellas set on the banks of the River Lithium in the same fictional town of Falls, N.C., where most of his work has taken place, ‘Local Souls’ is a tour de force in the tradition of Hawthorne. It shows that Gurganus’s vast creative and imaginative powers, still rooted in the local, are increasingly universal in scope and effect. The book is an expansive work of love with not a sentence that (as Gurganus once said regarding [writer Barry] Hannah) ‘hasn’t first been sung aloud at 3 a.m. beside some river at a hunting camp.’”
Brett Lott in the Boston Globe said, “The man can write, and write well. But with ‘Local Souls,’ his talents seem turned to a steroidal pitch, as though Gurganus was straining to make sure we know he hasn’t lost his Southern touch.”
Laura Albritton in the Miami Herald wrote, “The last pages of ‘Local Souls’ prove once again that there is no writer alive quite like Allan Gurganus.
The October 7, 2013, edition of The New Yorker magazine published a four-page feature about Gurganus’s work by Thomas Mallon. “In Gurganus’s novels and short stories, images come in such fast, superb succession that one can’t tell whether the author is mixing metaphors or just surpassing them in mid-sentence.”
There is more, all coming from reviewers who, whether or not they think “Local Souls” is his best work, acknowledge Gurganus’s place as a member of America’s literary pantheon.
So why doesn’t Gurganus relax and enjoy the attention?
He wants to finish another novel, his first since “Plays Well with Others” in 1997, one to put beside his classic “Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All” as a part of his literary legacy.
Here is how Gurganus explained it to me the other day: “The critical and personal response to ‘Local Souls’ outran even my great hopes and expectations. Thirty-five cities in a row.  We’re sometimes told that reading has all but ended in America. But I saw the energy and curiosity of people keeping themselves alive via books and community. I feel elated to be home beside the fireplace just in time for threatened snow, for daily work on my novel, ‘The Erotic History of a Rural Baptist Church.’  A writer’s truest reward is simply to continue.”
OK Allan Gurganus. We will wait a little longer for the new novel, especially now since the literary world has already acknowledged that you, our neighbor, already are one of America’s literary greats.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. Viewers with access to UNC-TV’s digital channel UNC-MX can preview the program on the preceding Friday at 9 p.m. For more information or to view prior programs visit the webpage at www.unctv.org/ncbookwatch.