Title: Practical Heart
Publisher: North Carolina Wesleyan, Rocky Mount, North Carolina, U.S.A.
Publication Date: 1993
Book Condition: Fine
Signed: Signed by Author(s)
Signed by Author 0933598491 Limited Edition, signed by author on limitation page, this being #200/1000, The boards, spine, endpages and lettering are all pristine. The pages are clean, having no markings or folds. No jacket as issued. Bookseller Inventory # 000742
Synopsis: A luminous quartet, five years in the writing, reveals even more fully the breathtaking range of "a storyteller in the grand tradition" ( New York Times).
Allan Gurganus's voice--by turn bawdy and serene, folkloric and profane--deepens as it soars into this quiet masterwork. Four new fables--rich in event, comedy, experience--surge with the force of history's headlines versus sidestreet human fortitude. Improbable heroes and heroines spiral outward from Gurganus's familiar Carolina terrain. Each fires into a wild and differing direction, all in quest of some fantasy that's practically impossible:
--An impoverished immigrant has her portrait painted (or not) by John Singer Sargent.
--A young man's devotion to saving eighteenth-century homes?and their odd lingering ghosts?helps him find unlikely ways to renovate his own mortality.
--A pillar of the community becomes, over the course of one cartoon matinee, its pariah.
--A beloved, transfixingly homely father shows his village and his only son a decency stronger than race,
humiliation, or even death itself.
These characters' quixotic missions prove mysterious, often even to themselves. Their legacies are not easily deciphered. And yet, their most impractical wishes soon become the heartiest facts about each. They manage to wrest battle-courage from everyday indecision. Out of superstition and convention, they lift certainty. They each find a wealth of consoling truths banked--immortal--in the all-too-human heart.
Allan Gurganus's great powers--announced more than a decade ago by Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All--here achieve a yearning exuberance worthy of a new Whitman. These leaps of sexual longing, empathy, and faith become a major new gift from this essential fablemaker.
Review: Allan Gurganus documents the daily dreams that sustain us. In the title novella of his extraordinary new collection, The Practical Heart, the narrator tells how his Aunt Muriel, a dour, genteel-poor Scottish immigrant, came to be painted by John Singer Sargent. This bit of family history turns out to be a fiction of the narrator's making, invented in an attempt to express how grand his aunt might have been, given an entirely different life. The other novellas likewise give us narrators interpreting and inventing the people around them. In "Preservation News" a woman eulogizes a historical preservationist who taught her the language of architecture; in "He's One, Too," a gay man looks back on his 1950s youth, when a stolid neighbor was arrested for indecent exposure in a public lavatory; in "Saint Monster," a son mourns his homely, good-hearted father, giving us parent-love as perhaps the most ordinary fantasy of all. --Claire Dederer
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