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“His beautiful books, his tremendous productivity, his spirituality and cheerfulness, his abiding friendships—all these generous traits and dynamic accomplishments have characterized Reynolds Price.”—Edmund White, The New York Review of Books
"From the start Price limned the worthiest people otherwise-ignored…. Reynolds had been born some kind of prodigy. And, for all that luck granted him---and that poor health seemed to later withdraw--- he remained precocious a full seventy-seven years.”—Allan Gurganus
“This is the giddy, glowing and poignant page-turner of an American master's life.”--Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“[Price] generated a small handful of these wondrous little memoirs, capturing some glint of himself in each like fireflies in a glass. Midstream is the last flicker of that self readers will ever get; they should treasure it.”--Open Letters Monthly
About the Author
Reynolds Price (1933-2011) was a former Rhodes Scholar and taught at Duke beginning in 1958 and was the James B. Duke Professor of English. His first novel, A Long and Happy Life, was published in 1962 and won the William Faulkner Award. His sixth novel, Kate Vaiden, was published in 1986 and won the National Book Critics Circle Award. The author of more than three dozen books, Price was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and his work has been translated into seventeen languages.
Reynolds Price was born in Macon, North Carolina in 1933. Educated at Duke University and, as a Rhodes Scholar, at Merton College, Oxford University, he has taught at Duke since 1958 and is now James B. Duke Professor of English.
His first short stories, and many later ones, are published in his Collected Stories. A Long and Happy Life was published in 1962 and won the William Faulkner Award for a best first novel. Kate Vaiden was published in 1986 and won the National Book Critics Circle Award. The Good Priest's Son in 2005 was his fourteenth novel. Among his thirty-seven volumes are further collections of fiction, poetry, plays, essays, and translations. Price is a member of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and his work has been translated into seventeen languages.
Reynolds Price's final book MIDSTREAM is unfinished, consisting of 156 pages, but it is heartwarming to see that he was brilliant and in total command of the English language, as few writers are, until the very end. The narrative begins where his previous memoir ARDENT SPIRITS left off: he is returning to Oxford for another year, then covers the publication of his first novel A LONG AND HAPPY LIFE, his return to Durham, the death of his mother and ends abruptly when he is a visiting professor at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Mr. Price devotes many pages to his friends in England, notably David Cecil ("it's only now. . . that I see how he'd come to be for me something I very much still needed. . . that is, a father") and Stephen Spender, whose son paid a visit to Price shortly before his death. He kept notes, a page a day, on his time at Oxford and draws on them for fleshing out his narrative although he candidly admits that memory may fail him in certain instances. Not so, however, with his account of meeting Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in Italy while they were filming the epic "Cleopatra" and burning up with passion both on and off the movie set. Mr. Price remembers that he rushed to his quarters and took voluminous notes of the occasion after he and Spender spent time with them. Burton, for instance, described Taylor-- out of her presence of course-- as tending to "'sudden jowliness and to washerwoman's arms. But she has these violet eyes you could dive into.'" Price remembers Alain Delon as "the finest-looking young man I've seen, before or since.Read more ›
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Midstream is alas the unfinished memoir of the late Professor Price. A shame he could not complete it because it is revelatory of a man with a large heart, huge talent, and a capacious mind. What is immediately obvious on the first page is that Price's prose style is far more simple than his earlier writing. Often his name is mentioned in the same breath as his contemporaries Philip Roth and John Updike. Price, however, wrote in a prose that neither novelist could match, his a grand, Mandarin prose. One need only read his Mayfield trilogy to undersand what grand prose truly is. With Midstream, however, Price recalls his years as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford's Merton College with the greatest simplicity. Price was a prodigy, but during his time in Oxford he had not yet made his mark as an artist. He was far too busy working on his Milton thesis with the great Helen Gardner as his advisor. Milton, along with his novel writing, would become Price's life, for he taught a Milton course at Duke University from his twenties up to his death of a heart attack. On reading Midstream, one is inspired to return to his novels. I reread The Promise of Rest. It is an arresting novel, and surely one of the greatest novels addressing the dark night of AIDS. In 1994-95, when he wrote and published his novel, Price was at the height of his powers. His prose rings out like like the deep bells of Oxford, echoing all the mentors of his youth: Tolstoy, Dostoievsky, Welty, and of course Faulkner. If one wants to glimpse the kind of student Price was at Oxford, this is the book to read. He also shares his great friendships. For instance, he became friends with Stephen Spender and W.H. Auden. He also became friendly with some celebrities.Read more ›
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Reading is a skill and an art, a fact everyone knows. This memoir is a major work among authors regarding the man who brought imagination to life in words, and those events and people who formed his personal experience. As with similar works related to Sherwood Anderson, Edgar Lee Masters, Betty Smith, Jon Hassler, Roland Merullo, Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty (et cetera), this work gives insight to both the fiction, poetry, and other literary publications of Reynolds Price as artist. While there is no need to append his novels, for example, this volume of recollections does, in fact, lend depth to the works, at least in my reading experience.
The delightful stream-of-consciousness tone takes the reader from Reynolds Price's earliest publication experiences in his late twenties to unfolding and growthful events as personal life unfolds. More than charting events, he reflects, makes connections, and moves toward a more contemplative way of sharing art and insight. The tome can be read very quickly; but in doing so, one might miss the insights he has about being human in community.
For those who thoroughly enjoy reading, this is a superior small volume. For myself, it is also a hope that more will flow from the boomer-generation as these authors age within "long and happy lives" to reflect on renewed meaning within the elongated aging years, maybe especially from experience in retirement communities and health facilities for seniors. These stories are yet to be told, though Reynolds Price prepares the way.
THOMAS PATRICK HULL, Chicago
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