It is one of life’s inexplicable injustices that he never won the National Book Award or the Pulitzer Prize, for his work stands among the great achievements in 20th century literature. He wrote of ordinary people in the most penetrating way, having the understanding gained from his own plain upbringing in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. As his career flourished, he endured treatment in 1984 for a spinal tumor that left him paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair for the next 27 years of his life.
His passion for writing deepened by his own suffering, he pursued the difficult questions of faith and theology with a scholarly zeal that produced some of the seminal 20th century works exploring the mysteries of the Gospels. Price’s meditations on the ethics of Jesus and the subsequent implications for living the Christian life in today’s world are among the most sensitive analyses in modern literature. A self-described “non-church-goer,” Price was nevertheless a deeply spiritual person with a thoughtfully developed moral standard that animated all of his work.
More than the remarkable fiction writing that is filled with prose of surpassing beauty, his books’ probing, deep questions about the existence of God exemplify his life of searching for truth in the darkness of pain as well as in the light of success. He shared generously his questioning and his insights with others who were in trouble: Letter to a Man in the Fire (1999) is an exemplary response to the doubt and despair of a fellow sufferer, the same doubt and despair we all feel when we face seemingly insurmountable obstacles in our lives.
For those of us who have experienced his love and compassion, either personally or through his writing, the loss of Reynolds Price leaves an intellectual and spiritual void that cannot be measured. We can only be comforted by the vast array of his books on the shelf, the work of a man on fire with the fervor of intellect and heart that leads the way to a deeper spiritual life.
— Josephine Ayers, Editor-in-Chief of Longleaf Style magazine. E-mail: email@example.com