The Curious Autodidact

January 22, 2011

Reynolds Price: An Author of Great Merit

Filed under: book related,Word Related — Honilima @ 8:39 pm

Reynolds Price

When I heard the news on Thursday that Reynolds Price had died, at age 77, of a heart attack, I reacted with feelings of deep loss.

I thought of my friend Susan, who was herself from the South, who worshiped his writing, but never wrote to tell him so no matter how often I urged her to do so. She died some stretch back and I began to parcel out reading this various novels, plays, memoirs, poems, diaries, and nonfiction for years after. He wrote over 35 books and many are still in print no small feat in today’s world of publishing.

I love this story telling ability and his richly told family sagas. When it came out, in 1994, I read “A Whole New Life,” his memoir of his spinal cancer and of his life afterward, confined to a wheelchair. He remained a brilliant author and was a professor at Duke University for fifty years. According to the article in the Charlotte Observer, “He made headlines in 1992 when he warned in a Founder’s Day address that students were growing indifferent to intellectual life – and more devoted to parties that stretched from midday Thursday to Monday morning.”

When I heard of his passing on Thursday I thought about how many copies of that book I had given friends and I couldn’t begin to count. It is a brave look at cancer and a richly lived life beyond that country. I remember he referred to his radiation treatments as “lunch in Hiroshima.” I know I had given at least three copies to friends in the past six months most recently to a friend in Florida who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and had a successful Whipple. It is a book that makes you see that if you survive you are given a whole new life and sometimes that life is more sweet than the one you had previously. In a 2009 interview with the Observer, he said he still heard from readers inspired and encouraged by that book.

He deeply touched my life and the lives of so many around me. He was a brilliant man who shared his gifts with so many students and readers across a wide swath of topics. Many people may recall his gentle voice on National Public Radio. I didn’t know until reading the article in the Washington Post that former President Bill Clinton thinks of him as his favorite author.

You shall be missed Mr. Price but your life will continue to influence many people who haven’t yet discovered your brilliant writing. Rest in Peace.

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