Emory Report

June 22, 1998

 Volume 50, No. 34

Prolific author Price to read
from his latest novel July 1

Noted author Reynolds Price is coming to Emory to sign and read from his latest book, Roxanna Slade. "I have been working for about three years trying to get him to Emory and finally hit pay dirt," said Nowell Briscoe, manager of Lullwater Books. Price's reading will be held in the Dobbs Center Faculty Dining Room July 1 from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

Roxanna Slade is the fictional memoir a 94-year-old North Carolina woman. "She has a great deal of time to filter through herself," Reynolds said. "She says, fairly late in the novel, that she thinks there are only six or eight things in anybody's life that are likely to be of any interest or of any use to anybody but the person who's talking. And so she tries to limit herself to what she thinks will be interesting events in her life."

As with his 1986 novel Kate Vaiden, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, reviewers have hailed Price's ability to so accurately capture the female voice in Roxanna Slade. "I have not found that an especially difficult task," he noted. "There are a great many very strong and powerful novels in which men have taken the female first person or have portrayed a female life very closely, and I think the explanation for that has to be simple. In our society anyway, and in most of the societies I've ever heard of, men are reared by women. And boys are likely to acquire a lot of information about 'the female mind' before they're 6 years old."

By all accounts, Price's own mother was a strong but loving figure-a "protofeminist," one writer called her. After his father's death, while Price was still an undergraduate at Duke University, his mother went to work in a clothing store to support her two sons. She stayed there well after Price achieved fame for his first novel, A Long and Happy Life.

Like Roxanna Slade, Price was born in North Carolina and has not strayed far since. He began a three-year sojourn at Oxford University in 1955 as a Rhodes Scholar but returned to Duke to teach, where his students have included the novelist Anne Tyler, and has been there 40 years.

"I've just got the normal roots that a person has who was born in a place he loved," Price said of his unwillingness to leave North Carolina, a place that also figures prominently in his work. "And I think that the things to say about the South, the obviously attractive things are really that it is, I think, the part of America in which human beings are most friendly and hospitable. And it's the part of America-and this is very important to me-in which an interesting and eloquent language and good storytelling still remain very important qualifications for membership in society."

A prolific writer by anyone's standards, Price's most productive period began after a 1984 diagnosis and ensuing fight against spinal cancer. He has produced more than two dozen books of poems, essays, plays, translations, fiction and memoir. He has even penned lyrics with singer James Taylor.

The book A Whole New Life recounts Reynolds triumphant battle with cancer and his subsequent paralysis. "Cancer forced me to reinvent myself," he told The Washington Post. Price also recalled wondering during his recovery, "How much more of this am I going to have to take? And for the only time in my whole life, I really got an audible answer, one word, which was, More. And I had to learn to live with what had survived that ordeal, which was all of my body that had ever really mattered to me anyway-the part that did my work and that conveyed me to my friends and the people I love."

Fresh from glowing reviews of Roxanna Slade, which was published in early May, Price said he's already musing over his next project. "I'm beginning to think of a new novel, and I haven't gotten far enough yet to reveal any facts about it, but I am beginning to make notes and that, generally speaking, is a good sign."

-Stacey Jones

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