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He's been called "the rightful heir to Faulkner and Welty" (by The American Scholar) and "a Mark Twain for our age" (by Le Monde). His first published short story, "Minor Heroism," appeared in The New Yorker after his teacher John Cheever submitted it without the author's knowledge. And his debut novel, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, was a mega-best-seller that's been translated into 12 languages.

He's taught at Sarah Lawrence (his alma mater), Stanford, the Iowa Writer's Workshop, and Duke (in his home state of North Carolina). And this week, he'll be at the University of Memphis to kick off the school's River City Writers Series spring 2011 schedule.

He is Allan Gurganus — novelist, short-story writer, and essayist — and he'll be followed in the months ahead by other writers in the series: Dorothy Allison, Albert Goldbarth, and Madison Smartt Bell.

That's a great lineup. It's an "amazing" lineup, according to Cary Holladay, associate professor of English at the university and director of the writers series.

"This amazing lineup of authors is an indication of the quality and rising visibility of the U of M's MFA program," Holladay says.

The River City Writers Series has been running since 1977, making it one of the nation's oldest and most respected visiting authors' series. And you're invited. Events are free and open to the public.

"We choose writers who are eager to talk with students and members of the community," Holladay adds.

And for those eager to listen, what are the chances that Allan Gurganus will be reading from his novel-in-progress, the second book in a projected trilogy that began with Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All — a novel called The Erotic History of a Southern Baptist Church?

With a title like that, fingers crossed, the chances are: good.

Allan Gurganus reading at the University of Memphis (inside the University Center's Bluff Room) on Monday,

February 7th, at 8 p.m.; interview with the author inside the university's Patterson Hall (Room 456) on Tuesday, February 8th, at 10:30 a.m.

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