“[Reynolds] Price hung a portrait of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, photographed a week before Lee died, almost at floor level in his office, where he could see it every time he rolled by. Lee’s portrait made Reynolds think of King Lear and stimulated both a dream and the long poem ‘The Dream of Lee'(1979).”
— From “Dream of a House: The Passions and Preoccupations of Reynolds Price” by Alex Harris and Margaret Sartor (2017)
In his poem Price has driven Lee from Lexington, Va., to Duke, where he will conclude his visit with a speech to students: “He faces his crowd and says ‘I shall read from my poems tonight.’ Slightly chilled, I think ‘The Poems of Lee’ — is there any such book? Before I decide, the great voice starts — ‘First a poem I composed two days ago for my friend Mr. Price’…. ”
“…I clicked immediately, curious to see ‘the most famous book’ set in North Carolina. Would it be Thomas Wolfe’s ‘Look Homeward Angel?’ Charles Frazier’s ‘Cold Mountain’? Or maybe ‘A Long and Happy Life,’ the debut novel that vaulted Reynolds Price to national fame?
“Wrong, wrong and wrong. The most famous book set in North Carolina, according to Business Insider, is….”
— From “What’s the most famous book set in North Carolina?” by Pam Kelley at charlotteobserver.com
A somewhat similar undertaking from 2012: “The six most influential books in telling North Carolina’s history….Discuss!”
“While living in Durham, N.C., back in the 1980s, I met a guy who was studying creative writing at Duke University. I have come to think of him as the doomed acolyte. One day he told me that his teacher, venerable Reynolds Price, rolled into the classroom in his wheelchair and gave the class a curious assignment. Price told the students they were not to touch the short stories they were working on for the next week. Don’t change a single word. Don’t add or delete a comma. Don’t even look at your stories.
“When the class reconvened the following week, Price asked how many had fulfilled the assignment. About half of the students, including the doomed acolyte, raised a hand. Price then stunned the room by advising those who were able to follow his instructions that they should consider dropping out of the course. His reasoning was brutal and simple: Anyone who is able to stop writing for an entire week — even for a single day — does not have the right stuff to become a writer. True writers, Price was saying, are in the grip of a compulsion. They have to write, and they are powerless to stop doing it. It is why they are alive and it is what keeps them alive.”
— From “Can Writers Retire? Let Us Count the Ways” by Bill Morris at themillions.com (Feb. 7, 2013)
More phrase-frequency charts from Google Books Ngram Reader:
— Krispy Kreme vs. Dunkin Donuts
— Wrightsville Beach vs. Myrtle Beach
— LSMFT (Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco)
— Reynolds Price vs. Anne Tyler
— Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence vs. Protocols of Zion
— Just what Raleigh needs: a Mast General Store?
— Jerry Bledsoe remembers serial restaurateur Wilber Hardee.
— Sallie Ford and the women who sang before her.
— A West Virginia’s novelist’s revelatory moment at Quail Ridge Books.
— My dinner with Reynolds.
“Reynolds Price was doodling on a paper placemat in a Harvard Square cafe on a spring morning in 1992 when he told me about the copy of ‘Paradise Lost’ he had bought for himself five years earlier after surviving extensive treatment for spinal cancer. Price… teaches a course on John Milton at Duke University, but stressed that the thin volume means considerably more to him than love of the great poet’s work.
” ‘Milton as in his early 40s, and I was in my early 50s when we both underwent a physically devastating illness, and in both our lives the experience led to some kind of mysterious renewal of good work,’ he explained. ‘Milton wrote his best books after he lost his sight. I have written 11 books since I had cancer, and it represents some of the very best work I have have ever done.
” ‘My copy of “Paradise Lost” once belonged to Deborah Milton Clarke, the daughter who took Milton’s dictation after he went blind. For me, it was like the apostolic succession. I was touching the hand that touched the hand that touched the Hand.’ ”
— From “A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes and the Eternal Passion for Books” by Nicholas A. Basbanes (1995)
Until his death Jan. 20 at age 77, Price continued to produce novels, essays, poems, plays and children’s books.
Duke today celebrates his life.
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?