White People

Allan Gurganus, Author Alfred A. Knopf $21.95 (252p) ISBN 978-0-394-58841-4
With the publication of this virtuoso collection, Gurganus ( Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All ) has again produced a book of literary merit that deserves wide readership. In 10 stories and two novellas written over the last two decades, we meet a delightful array of characters who share the common denominator of white skin, if little else. Narrated almost entirely in an astonishing range of first-person voices, this fiction displays the depth and breadth of Gurganus's skill as a gifted raconteur. In ``Condolences to Every One of Us'' a woman describes a disastrous African package tour that leads to the death of two tourists. ``Breathing Room'' is the story of a man who is overtaken by a once sickly younger brother. At age six, he ``ached to simply arch right over him, to settle like a jar with air holes and enough floor space so he'd not be bored.'' But the story ends in a melancholy tone: ``Bradley's thirty-four, and thriving; that makes me thirty-six.'' ``America Competes'' is a hilarious send-up of arts competitions. ``Reassurance'' is a delicate letter from the grave of a Civil War casualty that takes up at the final line of Walt Whitman's letter ``Death of a Pennsylvania Soldier.'' The final piece, ``Blessed Assurance,'' is a funny, sad, confessional tale told by a man reflecting on his traumatic youth, when he collected funeral insurance premiums from poor blacks. Gurganus is a champion storyteller with particularly American roots, in the tradition of Mark Twain. This is a collection to be savored and reread while we wait for more. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1991
Release date: 01/01/1991
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-679-40243-5
Hardcover - 978-0-517-11785-9
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-375-70427-7
Mass Market Paperbound - 978-0-8041-0851-5
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