Gurganus Is Next Guest on 'N.C. Bookwatch'
For the latest collection, Gurganus combed through hundreds of short stories written in 2005 to assemble a muscular array of talent, 20 stories ranging from low-down, high-octane farce to dark, erotic suspense.
In this episode of UNC-TV's local literary series "North Carolina Bookwatch," premiering Friday, Sept. 1, at 9:30 p.m., Gurganus spotlights many of the works from this year's volume that combines seasoned writers like Tony Earley, Wendell Berry, and George Singleton with gifted newcomers, including Keith Lee Morris, Erin Brooks Worley and J. D. Chapman and sheds light on his own introduction to editing the book.
"It's always fun to be able to exchange hats," says Gurganus. "As you know, Shannon Ravenel has done this for 20 years -- poring over hundreds and hundreds of short stories and choosing 13 or 14. I suppose she's reached the point where she says it's time to pass on the baton -- and so it fell to me and I think part of being a good citizen in the literary community not only involves being in this 'Miss America Pageant,' but judging it."
The stories Gurganus selected range from a communal love poem for a hunting dog, to a tale of a newly rich retiree trying to micromanage a Hollywood movie and losing his trophy wife to each new young screenwriter, to a harrowing work about a Virginia slave-woman burned alive for witchcraft -- a labor of love shared in this special one-on-one interview.
"I have always published stories, and it's a form I really love. It may be the hardest of all forms," says Gurganus. "In a novel, you have the next chapter to get right and one chapter can be a little weaker as long as the strong brother and sister on either side is holding him up. But a story is like a poem -- it has to come out in a single breath; it has to contain all of the necessary information, but not weigh itself down; it has to appear a spontaneous kind of outburst. And it's very, very hard to make it feel effortless."
Allan Gurganus' first novel, "Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All," won the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, was a New York Times bestseller, and has been translated into twelve languages. His novel, "White People," was the winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and was a PEN/Faulkner Finalist. "The Practical Heart: Four Novellas" was a Lambda Literary Award winner. His short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The Paris Review, and been anthologized in the O'Henry Prize Collection, Best American Short Stories, The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction, as well as the New Stories from the South series. Gurganus is a 2006 John Simon Guggenheim Fellow.
An encore presentation of this episode airs Sunday, Sept. 3, at 5 p.m.
For more information about additional series guests and airdates, plus the all-new Bookwatch blog and online book club, visit the Web site www.unctv.org/ncbookwatch.
Funding for North Carolina Bookwatch is provided by UNC-TV members and by Quail Ridge Books and Music, Raleigh's independent, full service bookstore, bringing readers and writers together since 1984.
North Carolina Bookwatch is part of UNC-TV's ongoing commitment to produce programs for and about North Carolina. UNC-TV is the statewide 11-station broadcast network of the University of North Carolina.
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