Reynolds Price

It would have been an auspicious meeting indeed, if Reynolds Price could have thought of something to say. He was twenty-nine years old, just returned from a year in England, pausing in New York City. The year was 1962. It was springtime, late May. Just a month earlier, his first novel, A Long and Happy Life, had been published by Atheneum and had appeared in its entirety in a single issue of Harper’s. Now he was watching from a high balcony seat as his friend Eudora Welty presented William Faulkner with the Gold Medal for Fiction at the National Institute and Academy of Arts of Letters. Price was surprised by how small Faulkner appeared on stage, how all but silently he spoke. When the ceremony finished, Price found himself alone on the sidewalk, and there, alone next to him, was Faulkner. At the time, every Southern writer stood to be compared to Faulkner, and Price was no exception. He was not an unreserved fan of Faulkner’s work, and the young author had heard that the great man could be cold. Still, there they were. Price was a Southern boy with a novel. Faulkner had won the Nobel. Price looked at him and tried to come up with a greeting. The city moved around them. Then a car pulled up, and Faulkner was gone. In seven weeks he would be dead.

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