ARDENT SPIRITS by Reynolds Price


Leaving Home, Coming Back
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A memoir of young adulthood from the acclaimed American novelist (English/Duke Univ.; Letter to Godchild: Concerning Faith, 2005, etc.).

In 1955, the 22-year-old Price earned a Rhodes Scholarship and moved from his native North Carolina to Oxford, where he would become a writer. In his third autobiographical work, the author explores themes of belonging and identity amid the rich literary history of midcentury Britain. To a native Southerner—and a writer whose work has been almost entirely based in the South—the damp, dreary confines of Oxford were a stark transition, but one that was softened by the immediate and lasting friendships formed in those halls. It was an environment that proved robust in pleasure and opportunity and offered independence of spirit to a young man both grieving the death of his father and emerging as a sexual being. During these graduate years the author spent much time with such respected writers as Stephen Spender, David Cecil and W.H. Auden, all of whom left indelible intellectual impressions on the budding wordsmith as well as giving insight to the delicate humanity behind their lasting work—a parallel that extends to Price, whose debut novel, A Long and Happy Life, won the William Faulkner Award in 1962. Now in his mid 70s and bound to a wheelchair—the sad result of a malignant spinal tumor and subsequent surgeries—the author presents an unfettered collection of memories of his formative years and conveys that his Oxford experience provided the creative base from which he’d draw throughout his accomplished career.

Though 50 years have passed, all of which Price has spent teaching at Duke, his talent has not abated, and this “memoir of high adult happiness” brims with spirited, intimate and poetic language.

Pub Date: May 12th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-7432-9189-7
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2009


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