Reynolds Price, who died in Durham, N.C., last week, was a frequent visitor to Washington and Lee, which gave him an honorary doctor of letters degree in 1991. The New York Times obituary said that Price’s “novels and stories about ordinary people in rural North Carolina struggling to find their place in the world established him as one of the most important voices in modern Southern fiction.”
Many longtime W&L faculty will remember Price’s relationships with W&L, which included not only his contributions to Shenandoah: The Washington and Lee University Review over the years but close friendships with many Lexingtonians as well. W&L English professor emeritus Severn Duvall recalled last week how Price had, through his personal friendship, arranged for the renowned African-American writer Ralph Ellison to give a speech to the W&L community in Lee Chapel back in 1963.
In 1966, Shenandoah featured an interview with Price by Wallace Kaufman. It’s a fascinating conversation still. Discussing the setting of his stories and novels, Price said: “I had no sense of being a conscious chronicler — either of Southern life or of human life as I’ve known it in my lifetime, which has after all been an enormous time in human history (I was born in 1933). What I’ve chronicled is my own world, that world which has seemed to me (since I began to see at all) to exist beneath the world perceived by other people, the world which seems to me to impinge upon, to color, to shape, the daily world we inhabit.”