Reynolds Price Analysis

Discussion Topics

What role does guilt play in the writings of Reynolds Price?

Is there evidence in any of Price’s works that he believes in the concept of Original Sin?

Much of Price’s writing has been called “a dialogue between love and solitude.” Do you agree or disagree with this characterization?

Present some examples of how Price uses language, especially dialects, to depict his characters authentically.

Price has written several religious books. Do you find specific elements of religion in his fiction?

Price called the Great Depression his generation’s Civil War. Do you find in his fiction evidence to support such a statement?

To what extent is Price dependent on symbolism to drive home the essence of his stories?

Other Literary Forms

In addition to short stories, Reynolds Price’s works include plays, teleplays, award-winning poetry, and the novels for which he is best known, which include The Honest Account of a Memorable Life: An Apocryphal Gospel (1994) and The Promise of Rest (1995). Price’s essays and articles have been collected in several volumes, and he has also published translations from the Bible, a memoir, Clear Pictures: First Loves, First Guides (1989), and Learning a Trade: A Craftsman’s Notebooks, 1955-1997 (1998).


A Rhodes scholar at Oxford University, Reynolds Price held John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships. His numerous honors also include a National Association of Independent Schools award, a National Institute of Arts and Letters award, a North Carolina Award, a Bellamann Foundation award, the Roanoke-Chowan Poetry Award, the Elmer H. Bobst Award, a Fund for New American Plays grant, and an R. Hunt Parker Award, as well as honorary doctorates from St. Andrew’s Presbysterian College, Wake Forest University, Washington and Lee University, and Davidson College. His A Long and Happy Life (1962) won both the William Faulkner Foundation First Novel Award and the Sir Walter Raleigh Award. The Surface of Earth (1975) won the Lillian Smith Award in 1976, and Kate Vaiden (1986), a best-seller, received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. The Collected Stories was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. Price’s books have been translated into sixteen languages.

Other literary forms

Reynolds Price is best known as a novelist, but he has also produced sensitively written short fiction, poetry, and dramas, as well as retellings of biblical stories. Although these works are not consistently of the quality of his best novels, all are clearly the work of an author with a strong sense of his craft. His collections of essays include some extremely interesting insights into what Price is trying to accomplish philosophically and stylistically in his long fiction. His poetry has been collected in several volumes, including Late Warning: Four Poems (1968), Vital Provisions (1982), The Laws of Ice (1986), and The Use of Fire (1990). Since his early collection of short stories The Names and Faces of Heroes appeared in 1963, several other volumes of his stories have been published. Things Themselves: Essays and Scenes (1972) and A Common Room: Essays, 1954-1987 (1987) contain his most salient essays on writing. Among Price’s retellings of biblical stories are Presence and Absence: Versions from the Bible (1973), Oracles: Six Versions from the Bible (1977), and A Palpable God: Thirty Stories Translated from the Bible with an Essay on the Origins and Life of Narrative (1978). His dramas include Early Dark (pb. 1977), Private Contentment (pb. 1984), and the teleplay House Snake (1986). The plays in his trilogy New Music premiered in 1989 and have subsequently been produced throughout the United States. Price’s autobiography Clear Pictures: First Loves, First Guides was published in 1989.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Early in his career, Reynolds Price won the literature award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and he received the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction, presented by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association, six times (in 1962, 1976, 1981, 1984, 1986, and 1999). In 1986, he received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Kate Vaiden, and in 1994 Price’s The Collected Stories (1993) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction. In 1988, in recognition of his achievements, Price was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1993, early in his presidency, Bill Clinton, a devoted reader of Price’s novels, entertained the author at a White House dinner.

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Reynolds Price has published numerous volumes in a full range of genres, including novels, short-story collections, poetry collections, memoirs, plays, and biblical translations. Price has authored many articles, delivered many speeches, and broadcast works on National Public Radio. Price is probably best known for his fiction, and his first published work was the novel A Long and Happy Life (1962), which was followed by the novels A Generous Man (1966), Love and Work (1968), and many others. However, Duke professor Victor Strandberg—Price’s colleague—considers Price’s poetry to be his best works. Price’s memoir Clear Pictures: First Loves, First Guides (1989) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Price. Other memoirs include Ardent Spirits: Leaving Home, Coming Back (2009), which covers the years 1955 through 1961 and touches on his homosexuality.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Reynold Price’s achievements and literary contributions span more than four decades. Price received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation (1964) and the National Endowment for the Arts (1967). He won the Faulkner Foundation Prize for A Long and Happy Life in 1963 and an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1971. In 1976, he won the Lillian Smith Award for his novel The Surface of Earth and a Henry Bellamann Foundation Award. He was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in fiction (1986) for Kate Vaiden, and he won the Elmer H. Bobst Award (1988), the R. Hunt Parker Award (1991), the John Tyler Caldwell Award for the Humanities (1999), the...

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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Black, James T. “A Conversation with Reynolds Price.” Southern Living 27 (September, 1992): 38. A brief biographical sketch of Price’s life; discusses the ways in which families deal with crisis in his fiction.

Fodor, Sarah J. “Outlaw Christian: An Interview with Reynolds Price.” The Christian Century 112 (November 22-29, 1995): 1128-1131. Price discusses eroticism in literature, the role of children in his fiction, the women in his novels, the importance of solitude in his life, his views on religion and the author Flannery O’Connor.

Henry, William A. “The Mind Roams Free.” Time 143...

(The entire section is 472 words.)