An Unfinished Memoir
By Reynolds Price
(Scribner, Hardcover, 9781439183496, 192pp.)
Publication Date: May 15, 2012
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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The final book from Reynolds Price, “one of the most important voices in modern Southern fiction” (The New York Times)—with a foreword by Anne Tyler and an afterwordby William Price
WHEN REYNOLDS PRICE DIED IN JANUARY 2011, he left behind one final piece of writing—two hundred candid, heartrending, and marvelously written manuscript pages about a critical period in his young adulthood. Picking up where his previous memoir, Ardent Spirits, left off, the work documents a brief time from 1961 to 1965, perhaps the most leisurely of Price’s life, but also one of enormous challenge and growth. Price gave it the title Midstream. Approaching thirty, Price writes, is to face the notion that “This is it. I’m now the person I’m likely to be . . . from here to the end.” Midstream, which begins when Price is twenty-eight, details the final youthful adventures of a man on the cusp of artistic acclaim. Here, Price chases a love to England, only to meet heartbreak. Determined to pursue other pleasures, he travels to Sweden for a friend’s wedding, then journeys to Rome with British poet Stephen Spender and spends an afternoon with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Price returns to the United States, where he finds company with a group of artists as he awaits the 1962 publication of his first novel, A Long and Happy Life.
“Few writers have made as dramatic an entrance on the American literary stage,” declared The New York Times on the book’s success. Price would settle into a tranquil life in North Carolina, buy a house, and resume teaching. Concluding with his mother’s death and Price’s new endeavors—a second novel and foray into Hollywood screenwriting—Midstream offers a poignant portrait of a man at the threshold of true adulthood, navigating new responsibilities and pleasures alike. It is a fitting bookend for Price’s remarkable career, and it reinforces his place in the pantheon of American literature.
FROM ANNE TYLER’S FOREWORD TO MIDSTREAM
“Just look at him flying across the campus, curls bouncing, dark eyes flashing, and a black cape (I swear it) flaring out behind him. Actually he never owned a black cape; he told me that, years later. He said it was a navy jacket, just tossed over his shoulders. But still, he was wearing a virtual cape, if you know what I mean. He was an exclamation point in a landscape of mostly declarative sentences. He lived in a house-trailer out in the woods; he invited us to come there and drink smoky-tasting tea in handmade mugs. Speaking with a trace of an English accent from his recent studies at Oxford (for he had a genius for unintentional mimicry, which he said could become a curse in certain situations), he told us funny, affectionate tales about his childhood in backwater Macon. Most of us came from Macons of our own; we were astonished to hear that they were fit subjects for storytelling. All over again, inspiration hit. Let us out of there! We had to get back to our rooms and start writing.”
Reynolds Price (1933-2011) was a former Rhodes Scholar and taught at Duke beginning in 1958 and was the James B. Duke Professor of English. His first novel, A Long and Happy Life, was published in 1962 and won the William Faulkner Award. His sixth novel, Kate Vaiden, was published in 1986 and won the National Book Critics Circle Award. The author of more than three dozen books, Price was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and his work has been translated into seventeen languages.
“His beautiful books, his tremendous productivity, his spirituality and cheerfulness, his abiding friendships—all these generous traits and dynamic accomplishments have characterized Reynolds Price.”—Edmund White, The New York Review of Books
"From the start Price limned the worthiest people otherwise-ignored…. Reynolds had been born some kind of prodigy. And, for all that luck granted him---and that poor health seemed to later withdraw--- he remained precocious a full seventy-seven years.”—Allan Gurganus
“This is the giddy, glowing and poignant page-turner of an American master's life.”--Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“[Price] generated a small handful of these wondrous little memoirs, capturing some glint of himself in each like fireflies in a glass. Midstream is the last flicker of that self readers will ever get; they should treasure it.”--Open Letters Monthly
“Warm,in-depth … The charm of Midstream ishow the author takes us so fully into his confidence.”