WHITE PEOPLE by Allan Gurganus


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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
ISBN: 394-58841-X
Publisher: Knopf
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