The Collected Stories
THE COLLECTED STORIES brings together fifty short stories Reynolds Price has written over five decades, from “Michael Egerton” in 1954 to “An Evening Meal” in 1992. Half of the stories are reprinted from Price’s two earlier collections, THE NAMES AND FACES OF HEROES (1963) and PERMANENT ERRORS (1970). And most of these stories have actually seen print before, in ESQUIRE, HARPER’S, PLAYBOY, THE SOUTHERN REVIEW, THE NEW YORKER, and a dozen other major vehicles for short fiction.
The range of Price’s stories is remarkable: stories of European travel, of Christmas on the West Bank in Israel, of a visit to an American Indian reservation. But the best of Price’s stories tap his family history, the rich Southern roots of his own North Carolina childhood. Like Eudora Welty—and PERMANENT ERRORS was dedicated to her—Price has found within his family history a well from which he can draw endlessly for his fiction.
Often, in fact, he has disguised his characters very little, and they are “Reynolds” as a boy, and “Buck Price” his father; various aunts and uncles and grandparents on several sides of his family; and the black families which have worked for these relatives for generations. He knows these lives so well that he can render them in rich detail, and his mainly rural Southern characters come alive through the intimate detail Price gives so effortlessly—of food and flowers, gossip and language.
If Reynolds Price has an overriding theme within this setting, it is adolescence, particularly for the young boy of eleven or twelve whose experiences are propelling him toward adulthood. What distinguishes Price’s version of the American growing-up story is a dual focus on sexuality on the one hand, and spirituality, even mysticism, on the other.
Price’s elegant, often first-person prose is perfectly appropriate to his themes. Price’s characters are constantly discovering the mysteries of the human and natural worlds, of the spiritual heart residing within life, and the power which humans have of achieving that spirituality, by caring for each other and achieving true intimacy. For Price’s characters, the lessons of this world are full of aching joy and sadness. And Reynolds Price’s short fiction often achieves an intensity close to music, with an expressiveness that few writers ever achieve.
Sources for Further Study
Booklist. LXXXIX, April 15, 1993, p.1495.
Chicago Tribune. May 16, 1993, XIV, p.1.
Choice. XXXI, October, 1993, p.293.
Commonweal. CXX, December 3, 1993, p.22.
Library Journal. CXVIII, May 1, 1993, p.120.
National Review. XLV, June 7, 1993, p.68.
The New York Times Book Review. XCVIII, July 4, 1993, p.8.
Publishers Weekly. CCXL, April 19, 1993, p.49.
San Francisco Chronicle. June 27, 1993, p. REVS.
USA Today. June 18, 1993, p. D4.
The Collected Stories
The Collected Stories brings together fifty short stories Reynolds Price has written over five decades, from “Michael Egerton” in 1954 to “An Evening Meal” in 1992. Half of the stories are reprinted from Price’s two earlier collections, The Names and Faces of Heroes (1963) and Permanent Errors (1970); and most of these stories, as well as the previously uncollected other half in the book, have actually seen print before, in Esquire, Harper’s, Playboy, Encounter, The Paris Review, The Southern Review, The New Yorker, and a dozen other major vehicles for short fiction.
Yet Price is not one of the best-known practitioners of the genre. Perhaps because these stories have been spread over almost forty years and half of them appeared before 1970, Price is not known primarily as a short-story writer. Rather, he is familiar to many readers as an author of twenty-five books and as a poet, playwright, and, most notably, a novelist. Yet as these stories reveal, he is also one of the best practitioners of the short- fiction genre at work in the United States, particularly in the great Southern prose tradition of James Agee. and Eudora Welty, Truman Capote and Josephine Humphreys.
(The entire section is 2,132 words.)