One of the lions of American literature, particularly southern literature, passed away Thursday at the age of 77. If your book group has not sampled the works of Reynolds Price, then now might be a good time to consider them.
Price was a Rhodes Scholar and a long-time professor at Duke University. As a writer, he burst on the scene with 1962’s A Long and Happy Life. Other classics followed, such as his sagas of two southern women–Kate Vaiden and Roxanna Slade–and the complex Great Circle trilogy that begins with The Surface of Earth. Price’s poetry, stories, and memoirs are also worthy of attention, particularly A Whole New Life, which Price wrote after a bout with spinal cancer left him a paraplegic, a condition he would face for the last 26 years of his life. Price also spent seven memorable years as a commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered and his work there was collected in Feasting the Heart. Price first wrote publicly about his experience as a gay man in 2009’s Ardent Spirits: Leaving Home, Coming Back. If you’ve never read anything by Price, you may unknowingly know just a tiny section of his work: he wrote the lyrics for James Taylor’s “Copperline” and “New Hymn.”
Price led a fascinating life, and the many aspects of his experience and his literary output would make for a great discussion. You can read his New York Times obituary here, the obituary from Duke University here, or the Wikipedia entry on Reynolds Price here.