Allan Gurganus is one of my favorite writers. His short story Minor Hero (1974) was the first story The New Yorker ever published with a gay main character (the magazine’s founder Harold Ross had instructed his staff that there was no such thing as a homosexual).
You might know him for his first novel, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All (1989), which was on the New York Times Best Seller list for eight months and sold over four million copies. It was made into television film with Diane Lane and Cicely Tyson, and won four Emmy Awards including one for Tyson.
Gurganus’s other works include short story collections White People (1991) and Local Souls (2013); a novel Plays Well With Others (1997), and The Practical Heart (1993); a collection of four novellas, which won a 2001 Lambda Literary Award. I associate him with The New Yorker, but his short fiction has been published The Atlantic and The Paris Review.
Although I was frequented interrupted by my husband and our quarantine guest, I devoured his funny, moving, hauntingly unsettling story The Wish For A Good Young Country Doctor in the May 4 edition of The New Yorker. It revolves around a cholera epidemic and how it manifested in a small fictional town in western Illinois in 1849.
Gurganus drafted the story five years ago and did a lot of research. He tells The New Yorker:
“And it somehow finished itself the week we all first read that spiky word ‘coronavirus’ (That Richard III of a word!).
Further preparation for writing this story came with my surviving military service in Vietnam only to wash up in Manhattan during those terrifying years when H.I.V. made its first subtractions from my community. Like now, we had an unknown illness, a blundering government’s denial, an overwhelmed medical establishment, then a cohort of passionate amateurs stepping in to save or salve their friends.”
This story really got under my skin. You can read The Wish For A Good Young Country Doctor, here.