Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

R.I.P. Reynolds Price

I didn't get the memo. I never read my Duke alumni magazines any more unless the cover story intrigues me so I hadn't heard the news that Reynolds Price died in January after more than 20 years fighting the cancer that put him in a wheelchair and inspired his 1994 memoir A Whole New Life.

Price was a novelist, a poet, a Rhodes Scholar. (At commencement every year, he would wear the Oxford colors, a practice other professors mocked.) He was a James B. Duke professor at Duke University (his alma mater) where, among other things, he taught a semi-annual seminar on Milton. You couldn't take it your freshman year, so I had to wait until I was a junior to enroll. It was worth the wait.

In fact, taking that class was pretty much my whole reason for applying to Duke. Even at 17 I was already word-struck and his brand of grandiloquent Southern writing appealed to me. (Another professor I adored used to mock Price's penchant for somewhat heavy-handed allegory, as when he named a character in his most famous novel Pomeroy--as in King of the Apples, as in ... the devil.)

If you don't know Price's work, here's his Wikipedia entry, which says that he was one of Bill Clinton's favorite authors.

To this day I can quote huge chunks of Paradise Lost. There were other lessons I learned in the class but that was my take-away.

Reynolds Price is dead. Somehow I should have known.

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