Friday, January 25, 2013

Top Ten Favorite Books: Alan Gurganus

Alan Gurganus, as far as I was concerned, came out of nowhere in 1989 with his wonderful Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All.  Little did I know that Gurganus had previously published several chapters of the book in places like The Paris Review, Harper's, and The North American Review.  All I knew was that a novel about the "widow of the Civil War's last surviving soldier" was something that sounded perfect for me, someone who consistently enjoys Civil War fiction.  So I jumped all over it - and now have a fairly valuable first edition copy of the novel on my shelves.

In Lucy Marsden, the 99-year-old widow referred to in the novel's title, Gurganus created one of my all-time favorite characters.  The woman, as we say in the South, has a mouth on her.  Today, I consider the book to be one of the most underrated novels of the eighties, and I still recommend it to friends every so often.  And, at least to this point, everyone who has taken my advice has love Confederate Widow as much as I do.  This 718-page whopper is quite the reading experience.

Alan Gurganus
Which brings me back to Alan Gurganus.  Honestly, I don't know much about Mr. Gurganus other than that he is a North Carolinian novelist, short story writer, and professor.  I doubt that this list (taken from The Top Ten, edited by J. Peder Zane) of Mr. Guranus's Top Ten Favorite Books will tell us much about him, but you never know:  

  1. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  2. The stories of Anton Chekhov
  3. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  4. Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov
  5. A Death in the Family by James Agee
  6. Absalom, Absalom by William Faulkner
  7. The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde
  8. Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh
  9. Emma by Jane Austen
  10. The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass
And, do read Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All if you enjoy Southern humor and irreverent historical fiction - don't be put off by the Civil War focus - and let me know what you think of it.


  1. I checked this out from the library back when it first came out and got about halfway, then the book had to go back. I never finished it. Sigh!

  2. You know what, Susan and Factotum? I am not surprised that this one did not slip past either of you guys. Susan...I hate when that happens. I just had to return one to the library yesterday that I didn't even get a chance to start before my two weeks were up. I will never keep a book past its due date if it's on someone's "hold" list, so it had to go back...and, I'm back in line - at the end.