Reynolds Price, Bill Clinton and Wesley Beavers

In 1998 Reynolds Price read from “Roxanna Slade,” his new novel, at a Borders in Charlotte.

Afterward, he recalled having visited the White House at the invitation of Bill Clinton. How big a fan was Clinton? Accompanying Price on the elevator, he shocked his guest by reciting the famous opening sentence of “A Long and Happy Life”:

“Just with his body and from inside like a snake, leaning that black motorcycle side to side, cutting in and out of the slow line of cars to get there first, staring due-north through goggles towards Mount Moriah and switching coon tails in everybody’s face was Wesley Beavers, and laid against his back like sleep, spraddle-legged on the sheepskin seat behind him was Rosacoke Mustian who was maybe his girl and who had given up looking into the wind and trying to nod at every sad car in the line, and when he even speeded up and passed the truck (lent for the afternoon my Mr. Isaac Alston and driven by Sammy his man, hauling one pine box and one black boy dressed in all he could borrow, set up in a ladder-back chair with flowers banked round him and a foot on the box to steady it) — when he even passed that, Rosacoke said once into his back ‘Don’t’ and rested in humiliation, not thinking but with her hands on his hips for dear life and her white blouse blown out behind her like a banner in defeat.”

First sentence, first novel.  How was that for starters?

One thought on “Reynolds Price, Bill Clinton and Wesley Beavers”

  1. I was the manager on duty that night at Borders. It was the first and only time I ever met Mr. Price, but his graciousness made a powerful impression. And his Truman Capote imitation wasn’t bad, either.

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