Born on February 1, 1933, in the rural North Carolina town of Macon, the son of William Solomon Price and Elizabeth Rodwell Price, Edward Reynolds Price was a child of the Great Depression. Although, because of the closeness of his family structure, his welfare was not seriously threatened by the social dislocations around him, the boy was aware of them and developed what his biographer Constance Rooke calls Dickensian terrors of abandonment and destitution. His parents, hard-pressed economically, lost their house when they could not raise a fifty-dollar mortgage payment.
Upon graduation from Needham-Broughten High School in Raleigh, where his English teacher, Phyllis Peacock, appreciated his ability and took a particular interest in him, Price became an English major at Duke University in 1951. There he came under the influence of William Blackburn, a legendary teacher of creative writing who numbered among his former students such luminaries as William Styron, Anne Tyler, Max Hyman, and Fred Chappell. Through Blackburn, Price metEudora Welty, who respected his work and ten years later was instrumental in helping to get Price’s first book, A Long and Happy Life, published.
Upon receiving his bachelor’s degree from Duke, Price attended Merton College, University of Oxford, as a Rhodes scholar. He received a bachelor of letters degree from Oxford in 1958 and returned to Duke University in that year as an assistant professor of English. Except for brief intervals, Price continued to teach there for the rest of his career. Since 1977, he has held the position of James B. Duke Professor of English at Duke, where he has regularly taught courses in creative writing and on the poetry of John Milton.
Price, who never married, burst on the literary scene auspiciously when Harper’s magazine devoted the whole of its April, 1962, issue to printing A Long and Happy Life, which was being released in hardcover at about the same time. The critical reception of this first novel was enthusiastic and brought Price the prestigious Faulkner Foundation Award for a first novel.
In 1963, Price visited England, and in the same year a...
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