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2018

NORTH CAROLINA L I T E R A R Y RE V I E W

ALLAN GURGANUS:

TWO TRIBUTES

Adapted from tributes presented at the North Carolina Writers Conference Rocky Mount, 29 July 2017

COURTESY OF JANE HOLDING

Homage to THE Allan Gurganus by Margaret D. Bauer I am so honored to have been asked to pay tribute to one of the writers we Eastern North Carolinians boast about. “Where in North Carolina did I land?” my friends back home in south Louisiana might ask. Louisiana people go to Florida, not the Outer Banks, for the beaches, but a few like me might have gone to summer camp in the mountains. “No, it’s nothing like that where I live,” I tell them. “I moved to Eastern North Carolina, about forty miles from where the author of Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All is from.” Wherever you are in the US – and lots of places beyond, that title will ring a bell. So yes, indeed, I am proud to have been asked to be among the speakers to honor this world-widely beloved writer tonight. I’m not going to introduce to you a writer who needs no introduction, but I am going to remind you of some of his works that you simply have to read again, starting with the story this wonderful, sweet man read the first time I met him about twenty years ago now! When I was just a child professor, playing dress-up in Alex Albright’s too big to fill shoes as the new editor of the North Carolina Literary Review, Allan Gurganus – the Allan Gurganus who wrote Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All – came to speak at ECU. So awestruck in those days, before learning that my new home state was chock full of the literary stars of my reading pleasure, I probably didn’t say two words to him. My younger self, much like the old lady standing in front of you this evening, a selfconfessed writer groupie, would sit mesmerized during a reading, nodding my head and wearing a silly grin on my face, reflecting how much I relish these opportunities to hear the writer on a stage behind the voices on the

ABOVE Margaret Bauer paying tribute to Allan Gurganus, sitting

here with Jane Holding, at the 2017 North Carolina Writers Conference (Read Holding’s tribute in the NCLR 2018 print issue.) Read about NCLR Editor MARGARET D. BAUER in the North Carolina literary award coverage elsewhere in this issue.

page. But unlike the old lady in front of you, I was far too intimidated to speak more than cliché pleasantries to these writers. – I have since learned to leap onto the stage before anyone else can get to him to beg for the privilege of publishing the story (and don’t get in my way or you might find yourself toppling off the stage). Anyway, I don’t remember if I had the nerve to say more than “thank you for coming, I enjoyed the reading” that night so many moons ago, but I do remember the story Allan read, “Nativity, Caucasian.”1 And I encourage you to reread that story first thing tomorrow – not tonight. You’ll get yourself all worked up with laughing and won’t be able to settle down to sleep. Here’s just the opening to remind you of what I am talking about, as well as to show you his genius for capturing a time and place. Just listen for how his selective (and hilarious) word choices reflect the post-world war two era’s attitude toward pregnancy.

1

“Nativity, Caucasian” is collected in White People (New York: Knopf, 1991); subsequently cited from this collection. The story was originally published as “Nativity, Caucasian: The Day Mother Nature Played Her Trump Card” in Chicago Tribune 6 Dec. 1987: web.

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2018  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2018  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

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