A Whole New Life

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Symptoms of motor malfunctions so slight as to pass virtually unnoticed began presenting themselves to Reynolds Price in April, By late May, he could no longer ignore the symptoms that resulted in his first major surgery for spinal cancer on June 4. His neurosurgeon discovered that a ten-inch, elongated tumor was crowding Price’s spinal cord. Paraplegia followed by quadriplegia and death within months seemed inevitable.

The ten hours of surgery Price endured on that June day succeed in removing only ten percent of his malignant tumor. The chiselling of several vertebral bones allowed more room in Price’s spinal column for the intrusive tumor to grow without compressing the spinal cord further.

Price leads his readers through all of the physical and emotional upheaval that his illness caused as it advanced. In slightly more than a year, longer than his doctors had anticipated, he was irreversibly a paraplegic. Future surgeries left Price in such unimaginable pain that he resorted to biofeedback and hypnosis to help control it.

Proving an apt subject for hypnosis, Price soon mastered techniques of visualizing and of self-hypnosis that permitted him to conquer his pain. The unexpected payoff he received from hypnosis was that it put him in touch with a past, extending to his third or fourth week of life, that was hitherto unavailable to him. This sudden release of information from his subconscious is largely responsible for Price’s landmark production of thirteen books in the decade since his first surgery. Miraculously, a decade after its onset, the cancer that so disabled Price appears to have left his body.

Sources for Further Study

Chicago Tribune. September 25, 1994, XIV, p. 5.

Commonweal. CXXI, June 17, 1994, p. 24.

The Georgia Review. XLVIII, Fall, 1994, p. 601.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. May 22, 1994, p. 1.

The New England Journal of Medicine. CCCXXX, June 23, 1994, p. 1834.

The New York Times Book Review. XCIX, July 10, 1994, p. 9.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLI, March 14, 1994, p. 55.

Southern Living. XXIX, May, 1994, p. 142.

Time. CXLIII, May 23, 1994, p. 66.

The Washington Post Book World. XXIV, June 12, 1994, p. 1.