Thursday, January 27, 2011

RIP Reynolds Price


I need to be more aggressive about searching out news. Being lazy and relying on Yahoo too much is not a good idea. Their idea of book news is shameful. They'd rather report about how Donald Rumsfeld is reflecting about his recently-written memoirs, and as a result, they dropped the ball about Southern American author Reynolds Price passing away last week on January 20 at the age of 77.

I first became aware of Reynolds Price back when I was all about Anne Tyler in the mid-to-late 1980s. He was her writing professor when she was a student at Duke. That information propelled me to read two of his novels: A Long and Happy Life (1962) and Kate Vaiden (1986). I remember really enjoying the former (his first novel) and feeling so-so about the latter, although I acknowledged that it was extremely well-written. I would gladly read both books again.

Last year, I found one of Reynolds Price's memoirs, Clear Pictures, in the hodgepodge that is my university's library. I checked it out, read it and came away with a renewed favorable impression of Price. He excelled at memoir. He wrote about personal matters thoughtfully and intensely, but he wasn't sloppy about it. His writing was both warm and open but also controlled and skillful.

In addition to his writing talent, I also admired Price for triumphing over his health issues. In the early 1980s, he developed a cancerous tumor that was wrapped around his spine. Radiation cured him, but left him paralyzed and in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. It didn't stop him from writing -- quite the contrary. He was always fairly prolific, but the bulk of his writing was done after the cancer. I'm thinking "steel magnolia", but that's used exclusively for gentle but formidable Southern women. I wish there was a male equivalent I could use to pay tribute to Reynolds Price.

4 comments:

Sue F. said...

I, too, was greatly saddened by the news of his death. I have always thought that he was a great author and read almost, if not all, of his books.

Thomas at My Porch said...

I didn't know he had passed. I have only read one of his books, but I managed to get my hands on a first edition of his third book in an unusal way. Several years ago we were in the process of buying a couch. As I browsed the prop books at this particular store (as I always do) I came across a first edition of A Generous Man with its dust jacket even. Knowing I had found something special, I nonchalantly asked the salesman if I could buy the book. He gave it to me for free since we were buying a couch. I am very happy with the acquistion and to this day am looking for the next needle in the haystack amongst prop books. I know one day I am going to find one I really want that the management won't want to part with.

Bybee said...

Sue,
I want to read the sequel(s)? to A Long and Happy Life and the other memoirs.

Thomas,
I look at prop books, too! I found a copy of Arrowsmith in a bar. There was also a nice old copy of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. I got Arrowsmith and left behind GPB. I'm still kicking myself.

Thomas at My Porch said...

Ooh, Arrowsmith, that would be a find.