WHITE PEOPLE: Stories by Allan Gurganus


Email this review


Gurganus here follows up his phenomenally successful debut--Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All--with a collection of 11 stories written over the last 20 years. They're a mixed lot, but the best of them, mostly about families or the South, display Gurganus's lush descriptive gifts as well as his prolix self-indulgence. Three stories about family members anchor the book. Placed strategically throughout the collection, the three (""Minor Heroisms: Something about My Father""; ""Breathing Room: Something about My Brother""; and ""A Hog Loves Its Life: Something about My Grandfather"") are each written in short takes, and impressionistically, as though Harold Brodkey took tranquilizers. The narrator's father was a WW II bombardier--a hero who became in peacetime ""just another mildly handsome business. man."" Gurganus juxtaposes the son's impressions of the father with the father's problematic point-of-view toward his artistically gifted son: ""At some point, you have to decide whether you're going to kill them or let them go."" The brother story mainly concerns Brady, with asthma: ""Breathing, when it's sick, is such a sound. . .it causes you to reconsider everything."" The grandfather piece reads like a reminiscence of a curmudgeonly but kindly old man. Of the rest, two (""Art History"" and ""Adult Art"") are Donald Barthelme-like concoctions about sexual repression and bisexuality, respectively; two (""America Competes"" and ""It Had Wings"") are satirical tidbits; and another two (""Reassurance"" and ""Blessed Assurance: a Moral Tale"") are closer to the style of Gurganus's novel, the latter (about a man who sells funeral insurance to blacks) luxuriant in its detail. In short, these stories (several first published in Harper's, The New Yorker, Granta, and Men on Men: Best New Gay Fiction) are a chronicle of Gurganus's successful search for the maximalist voice that resulted in Oldest Living Confederate. . . .

Pub Date: Jan. 28th, 1990
Publisher: Knopf