elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Reynolds Price (February 1, 1933 – January 20, 2011)

Although they do not treat gay themes at length, the poems and novels of Reynolds Price often reflect homoerotic and homosocial male relationships.

A native of eastern North Carolina, Reynolds Price rarely strayed far from home. After attending Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship, he returned to Duke University, where he taught for more than 50 years.

Though most acclaimed for his fiction, Price has also published drama, poetry, essays, and memoirs. His abiding interest in narrative yielded a volume of biblical retellings and three memoirs: Clear Pictures (1989), a collection of childhood memories; A Whole New Life (1994), an account of his life since the 1984 diagnosis of a spinal tumor that left him unable to walk; and Ardent Spirits (2009), recollections of his years in Britain and the friendships he made there, the first time in which he discussed his homosexuality in print.

Price's contribution to the gay literary heritage must be read indirectly since he does not treat gay themes at great length (though his novel The Promise of Rest [1994] focuses on the return home of a man with AIDS) nor did he speak at length about his own sexual identity.

Particularly in his poetry, the careful reader may note a particular idealization in describing the male body, a special attentiveness to a graceful stance or a muscular profile, as when the sight of his young friend Straw sprawled across the hood of a car unearths a buried memory for Hutch Mayfield, the central character in The Source of Light (1981): "Now the different place which Straw constituted, in power and need, demanded homage. The sight of the stripped boy asleep in his arms last Saturday dawn stood clear in Hutch's mind. He watched it gladly with no regret."

Yet other characters are equally obsessed with female bodies; Price returns again and again to the workings of Eros in shaping relationships. Gay relationships most often blossom as one manifestation of this deeply human urge toward connectedness: Hutch Mayfield's sexual relationships with men are sources of grace and comfort, and his eventual decision to marry his fiancée Ann constitutes choosing a life's course rather than rejecting homosexuality.

Price's noteworthy ability to create deep and complex women marks a treatment of gender distinctive among male authors; Price himself describes human experience as a "vast common room" that authors should use more fully.

Another distinctive concern is male friendship. For men of all ages, classes, and sexual orientations, a long conversation with a trusted male friend is a source of refuge from the demands of family and work, as when in the novel Good Hearts (1988) Wesley Beavers, escaping from both a marriage and a heterosexual affair, takes refuge with a gay male acquaintance. The unrealized sexual possibilities in their evening together offer Wesley a perspective from which to assess his life.

Such homosocial bonds burn most brightly in the novel The Tongues of Angels (1990), based on Price's experience as a summer camp counselor. The intense friendship between Bridge Boatner and Rafe Noren, though never expressed sexually, shimmers with erotic heat. Bridge gains from Rafe's angelic life and tragic death a glimpse of another realm of existence that will forever affect him.

Yet this friendship echos across Price's fiction with countless other relationships, particularly those among family members. In the intricate dances of human bonding between parent and child, between lovers, between friends, Price traces the surprising epiphanies, harsh realities, and ineffable joys of the workings of grace.

Citation Information
Author: Woodland, Randal
Entry Title: Price, Reynolds
General Editor: Claude J. Summers
Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture
Publication Date: 2002
Date Last Updated January 24, 2011
Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/price_r.html
Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL 60607
Today's Date January 20, 2013
Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.
Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates

Further Readings:

Ardent Spirits: Leaving Home, Coming Back by Reynolds Price
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (May 15, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0743291905
ISBN-13: 978-0743291903
Amazon: Ardent Spirits: Leaving Home, Coming Back

After two earlier autobiographical works—Clear Pictures and A Whole New Life—acclaimed writer Reynolds Price offers a full account of his life from the mid-1950s to the publication of his first novel in 1962.
Oxford University and Britain—which had scarcely recovered from the severe demands of World War II—were places of enormous vitality for Price, both academic and personal. From spotting J. R. R. Tolkien on the street in Oxford to intimate dinners with W. H. Auden and Stephen Spender, young Price was welcomed into the company of the most respected intellectual and artistic circles. Fully entrenched in the culture of his era, Price unfailingly makes clear the connections between his experience and the great tradition of world literature.

In lucid and frequently witty prose, Price offers full access to six years in the early adulthood of a rich life—“a gallery of portraits and sexual discovery” (The Weekly Standard ) and part of the great train of human accomplishment in which Price so ardently believed.

Midstream: An Unfinished Memoir by Reynolds Price
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Scribner (May 7, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1439183538
ISBN-13: 978-1439183533
Amazon: Midstream: An Unfinished Memoir

The final book—a memoir on which he was working at the time of his death—from Reynolds Price, “one of the most important voices in modern Southern fiction” (The New York Times).
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. 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. 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.

A Long and Happy Life: A Novel by Reynolds Price
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (May 5, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1439109346
ISBN-13: 978-1439109342
Amazon: A Long and Happy Life: A Novel

FROM ITS DAZZLING OPENING PAGE, WHICH ANNOUNCED THE appearance of a stylist of the first rank, to its moving close, this brief novel has charmed and captivated millions of readers since its original publication almost fifty years ago. The troubled love story of pretty, headstrong Rosacoke Mustian and the motorcycle-riding, stoic Wesley Beavers, A Long and Happy Life beautifully evokes a rural North Carolina now long gone.

Ecstatically reviewed and winner of the William Faulkner Award for a notable first novel when it was published in 1962, A Long and Happy Life launched the career of Reynolds Price, a writer considered to be "one of our greatest novelists" (HARPER LEE).

More LGBT History at my website: www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Gay Classics

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Tags: author: reynolds price, gay classics

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