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Local Souls, by Allan Gurganus

December 21, 2013

I put Allan Gurganus’s new book, a grouping of three novellas, down mid-sentence, inspired to finally come back to my blog and write something about it. I was not particularly inspired by the book, or the second novella I was in the middle of, or even the sentence (though I am intrigued by the non-grammatical nature of his sentences, their cut-off style). In fact, I’d just decided to put the book down, as in, not continue reading it.

But I wanted to think about it, to think about what I liked and why I ultimately didn’t like it, and I felt like thinking about it in writing. To have the desire to come back to this blog, and booklog, after a long absence, is a sign that things are opening up in my world. Which is, after what has essentially been one of the hardest years I’ve ever had, an excellent sign.

So I like Gurganus’s sentences. And I like novellas. And I like reading writers I haven’t read before. I started off intrigued, the story within the story of the first novella, the narrator who is a writer sitting next to a couple who make him so curious that he researches and writes their story. I don’t love it when authors withhold some key element, and make it very clear to the reader that they are withholding something which they will presumably reveal toward the end of the story. But I can go with it.

What made me put the book down part-way into the second novella was a combination and accumulation of things: the second had a similar voice to the first–therefore less fresh-feeling, and was employing that similar device of withholding while continuously reminding the reader of that withholding. The pleasure that I suppose this is meant to increase, prolonged waiting for release… I wasn’t feeling it. And looking back on the first story, there wasn’t enough there or enough to think about afterwards to overlook what was annoying me. It felt, suddenly, like an extended party-trick, or stories told with flourish at a party. But in the end without resonance for me.

I read for resonance, for bits big and small that come back to me.

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