It was mid-October, and I had just completed an hour-long speaking engagement at the Southern Festival of Books. All had gone well and the event had immediately been followed by some fruitful hallway conversations with a few of the attendees who’d held their questions till the end. I was late to meet an author friend at the signing area in the Legislative Plaza, so I hurried across the main lobby of the Nashville Public Library. As I crossed the marble floor, I locked eyes with a white-bearded gentleman in a three-piece houndstooth suit and hat. He said, “Hello” in passing, and my brain registered his identity. My arms were full, and as I’ve mentioned before, I was running late, but I stopped and backtracked.
“Mr. Gurganus?” I called and hoped I had pronounced his name correctly.
The gentleman in the suit and hat turned to answer.
I briefly introduced myself and told Allan Gurganus that I had read and enjoyed his most recent book, Local Souls. “It’s beautifully written,” I told the author. He graciously thanked me and asked if I was enjoying the book festival.
I had first seen Gurganus speak at the Southern Literary Alliance conference in April. I’d been looking forward to Local Souls since then. A collection of three novellas, Local Souls is set in the fictional town of Falls, North Carolina–the location of Gurganus’s most famous novel, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All.
The opening scene of the first story in Local Souls is unforgettable. Stories and characters introduced early in the book echo throughout later tales. Gurganus explores the thin divide between the known and unknown, life and death. It makes perfect sense when you learn that he grew up next to a graveyard and now resides next to a different “boneyard” in North Carolina. Watch this short video about Allan Gurganus’s graveyard community and “What the Graves Give Us” from CBS News. Learn more about the author and Local Souls at his website: allangurganus.com.