Up & Coming Weekly

January 26, 2021

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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Page 16 of 24

WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM 16 UCW JANUARY 27-FEBRUARY 2, 2021 What is going on in Falls, North Carolina? It is an insiders' question, but don't be put off. I am going to ex- plain and bring you into the fold. Falls is a fictional small town near Rocky Mount where famed North Carolina author Allan Gurganus grew up. Although Gurganus has built a legacy of great writing, art, and advocacy, he is still best known for his debut novel, "Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All." That book, set in Falls, came out in 1989 and rushed to the top of the New York Times bestseller list where it stayed there for months. Gurganus has taken his readers back to Falls on a regular basis. The town is the setting for several sto- ries in his latest book, "The Uncol- lected Stories of Allan Gurganus," which comes out next month. One story in the new book, "The Deluxe $19.95 Walking Tour of His- toric Falls (NC)," takes a hard look at the town from a tour guide's per- spective. Here is part of her pitch to her customers. "Moving along nicely. No strag- glers, please. Incorporated in 1824, almost immediately made the county seat, Falls still boasts five thousand local souls. We're down from our peak seven-thousand dur- ing the commercial boom of '98, 18--98. See that arched bridge? Some say that yonder River Lithium accounts for both our citizens' soothed temperaments and for how hard we find leaving home. Few local students, matriculating up north, last long there." The guide, who is the story's narra- tor explains, "On the cheap tour, I lead Yankees straight to Town Hall right past secret sites of major vigilante mishaps. Mind you, I withhold nothing out of la- ziness. I simply foresee which group is historically minded—like you all are." Longtime fans of Gurganus will ap- preciate the inside look at his favorite town. Newcomers will find that the tour of Falls forms the basis for another en- gaging Gurganus tale. The new book includes one of my favorites. In "A Fool for Christmas" Vernon Ricketts, a pet store manager in a mall near Falls, is the lead char- acter and narrator. He is the fool for Christmas who cannot resist a call to take care of a homeless teenager, keep her warm, and help her hide from the security officer, who is dedicated to getting such undesirables out of the mall. The teenager is pregnant, and Gurganus's story draws on the Biblical account of Christ's birth in a way that brings out the same sort of deep feelings. Gurganus wrote this story for NPR's All Things Considered in 2004 and read it on the program. He has rewritten it regularly. Last year it made its way into print in a limited edition that sold out quickly. The story's inclusion makes certain the new book will be a family treasure. Perhaps the book's most timely story is "The Wish for a Good Young Country Doctor," which was pub- lished first in The New Yorker in April. Set in a rural village in the Midwest during a cholera epidemic in 1850, a young doctor does his best to save its citizens. But when many die, the doctor is blamed. How did Gurganus manage to time his story to coincide with the current pandemic? Gurganus says he finished the story early this year, "on the day that coronavirus appeared for the first time in The New York Times. And the context was completely changed. I sent it to my agent who sent it to The New Yorker, which bought it in a day and it appeared two weeks later." These stories and six more will re- mind us of the talented North Carolin- ian's ability to laugh painfully at our- selves and our neighbors, holding us in waiting for Gurganus's promised, but long delayed, opus, "An Erotic History of a Southern Baptist Church." Allan Gurganus takes us back to Falls by D.G. MARTIN LITERATURE FREE HEALTH CARE • for uninsured Adults call 910.485.0555 D.G. MARTIN, Host of UNC's Book Watch. COMMENTS? Editor@upand- comingweekly.com. 910-484-6200. Contributing Writers Wanted Join the Up & Coming team Use your creative talents to promote community events (people, concerts, theater, festivals, sports, etc.) Basic writing and interviewing skills needed Intern opportunities available for college students Contact editor@upandcomingweekly.com (910) 484-6200

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