Friday, January 21st, 2011

Reynolds Price, 1933-2011

Reynolds Price, whom the Times calls "one of the most important voices in modern Southern fiction," has died. His novels and stories are indeed worthwhile, but what I most prize is his Three Gospels, which contains translations of Mark and John and a gospel written by Price himself. I am not in any sense a believer, but this book went a long way toward making me understand the simple power of the stories that have shaped our world in so many ways. It's something you should read particularly if you are without faith; it provides a way in that you might otherwise not be afforded. Price was 77.

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Annie K. (#3,563)

Yes, ok, I'll try it. I like the later novels, though sometimes they're a little too dire for me.

bzcohen (#2,764)

I enjoyed the marvelous privilege of taking Reynolds' last course, last spring. It was a seminar called The Gospels. There was one assignment for the entire semester: write your own apocryphal gospel, no longer than 8,000 words, due the last day of class. Our individual sessions, every Tuesday and Thursday for 75 minutes, were remarkably simple, too. Reynolds would read aloud his translations of Mark and John, and we would listen. He would stop often to note the importance of certain passages—I will never, ever forget him booming, in a voice that sounded like God's, tinged with a Southern accent, "Before Abraham was, I am"—but mostly he would take breaks to tell us the stories of people he had met. He had met everyone. (He started one session by asking our small group if he had ever told us his Bob Dylan story. He had not, and so he did, and he immediately followed by relaying encounters with Jimi Hendrix and then Shaquille O'Neal.) They were, of course, wonderful tales, funnier than you could ever imagine. I could go on, and on, and on with his fleeting witticisms and bits of wisdom, about writing and life, that I scribbled in my notebook's margins. Instead, I'm reminded of something he said in 2008, at a gala celebration to honor his 50th year teaching at his alma mater. "What a good time I've had," he said. "You've never met someone who has enjoyed life as much as I have."

Burnt Norton (#220,954)

@bzcohen Do you remember what his instructions were for writing the gospel? Maybe a rubric or guidelines? I'd love to teach something like that . . .

s. (#775)

“I am not in any sense a believer” strikes me as an early contender for understatement of the year.

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