Saturday, January 31, 2015

Sunday at Quail Ridge in Raleigh: A tribute to Reynolds Price

Reynolds Price
 If I could be anywhere this Sunday afternoon, it would be at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. The afternoon forum will be a tribute to the late Reynolds Price, long-time Duke professor and the author of such classic novels as "A Long and Happy Life" and "Kate Vaiden."

I fell in love with Price in 1963, soon after "A Long and Happy Life" was published. I checked it out from Duke's East Campus Library, where my then-husband was a graduate student.

Back home, I began reading aloud to my mother, who was helping me care for my new-born son. After that first long, glorious sentence in "A Long and Happy Life," we held our sides laughing -- not because what we read was particularly funny. But because it was exhilarating to happen upon such clear, pleasurable genius in the first sentence.

It would be another decade-plus before I actually met Price. As editor of the Observer's book page, I had started a series called "Piedmont Authors," which gave me an excuse in 1979 to drive to Durham to interview him. We met outside his classroom on West Campus, walked to our cars -- he drove a yellow Mercedes -- and I followed in my car (a white Mercedes, I admit, thanks to my brand-new husband who had been an indulgent bachelor before we married) to his little house deep in the country between Durham and Chapel Hill.

Two things I'll never forget: How he raved over his former student Anne Tyler, whom he taught as a 16-year-old Duke freshman and his surprise that every student after her was not as talented.

The other was his telling me that he ran four miles a day.
That fact would stick in my mind years later, when I returned to interview Price, this time in his wheelchair because of paralysis from radiation to reduce a spinal tumor -- a condition he bore with regal patience and an enviable grace.

WHAT: A tribute to Reynolds Price with Nancy Olson; Price's niece Memsy Price, Edmond Miller, Alex Harris (who will show photos), Frank Hielema and Jim Clark. Moderator: Clay Stainaker

WHERE: Quail Ridge Books, 3522 Wade Ave., Raleigh, N.C., 27607

WHEN: Sunday, Feb. 1 at 3 p.m.

COST: Free and open to the public