|Remembering Reynolds Price
February 1, 1933-January 20, 2011
Reynolds Price, a poet and novelist, had the deep melodious voice of a tenor and a heart filled with goodness and laughter.
We met in 1972 when our mutual friend Eudora Welty told me there was a wonderful young writer from North Carolina who would be coming to New York and that I should take pictures of him.
I had read his first novel, A Long and Happy Life, published in 1962 to rave reviews. I still have the paperback in my library and it's easy to see why its first sentence was boxed in The New York Times obit that appeared on Friday, January 21st.
In addition to being an excellent writer of prose with a pitch-perfect voice for the rural South where he was born and lived his entire life, Reynolds Price was a fine poet, playwright, essayist and translator.
He taught writing, and the poetry of John Milton, at Duke University for more than fifty years. Anne Tyler and Josephine Humphreys were among his early students.
In 1984, Reynolds learned he had cancer, a ten-inch-long, eel-like tumor inside his spinal cord that seemed certain to kill him. It did not, but the surgery and subsequent radiation therapy left him paralyzed from the waist down and he would spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. His book, A Whole New Life, An Illness and Healing is his personal narrative of his journey and a perfect reflection of his wisdom, his faith, and his deep intelligence.
We will all miss him but we are all so grateful for his life.
|Reynolds Price with Eudora Welty at the Algonquin Hotel.|
|Reynolds was often compared to William Faulkner but he preferred to be thought of as the heir to his mentor, Eudora Welty.|
|After meeting at the Algonquin and having a brief visit with our mutual friend Eudora Welty, Reynolds and I walked over to Bryant Park where I took some photographs of him.|
|This photograph of Reynolds appeared in my postcard book, Men Writers, published by Pomegranate Artbooks in 1996. The reverse text read:
Reynolds Price is a novelist, storyteller, poet, playwright, essayist and Duke University professor whose career is driven by a spiritual hunger and graced by human decency, qualities that distinguish his writing. Among his best-known works are his award-winning first novel, "A Long and Happy Life" (1962), "The Surface of Earth" (1975), "A Palpable God" (1978), and "Kate Vaiden" (1986).
|The opening sentence of A Long and Happy Life.
My paperback copy is so old that the pages have yellowed.
|Walker Percy, Reynold Price, Albert Murray, and Joseph Mitchell at the reception following the ceremony at The American Academy of Arts and Letters.|
|Reynolds Price with Composer Ned Rorem at luncheon preceeding awards ceremony of The American Academy of Arts and Letters, May 18, 1988.|
|Reynolds Price and Rose Styron at The American Academy of Arts and Letters, May 18, 1988.|
|In 1994 I visited Reynolds Price in Durham, North Carolina where I photographed him in the woods behind his house. This picture appeared in a book of interviews with 23 southern writers called Parting the Curtains, a collaboration with Dannye Romine Powell.|
|In July of 1996 I returned once again to Durham to visit and take some photographs for his upcoming book, Roxanna Slade.|
|For my 2005 desk diary, The Writer's Faith, published by Barnes & Noble, I used this photograph of Reynolds with the accompanying quote:
Prayer has always been a very important part of my daily life.
It's so much part of my daily life I don't even think of it as prayer. It just seems like the same thing as making the coffee and answering the phone and doing the work. I don't have elaborate, ceremonial ways that I do it. I am not a churchgoing person. But I think I'm an intensely
|JK with Reynolds on the terrace behind his house: July 16, 1996.|
|Once again at the annual ceremony of The Academy of Arts and Letters, this time with poet
|One of my last portraits of Reynolds. It was a long and happy friendship.|
|Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz
all rights reserved.