Author Reynolds Price, one of the South's most renowned literary voices, will be remembered as a man who inspired generations of students and delighted readers with his stories about ordinary people in North Carolina.
After cancer treatment left him paralyzed, he endured chronic pain, yet became more prolific. His death in Durham on Thursday followed a major heart attack on Sunday.
"I don't think there's any question, he was the most important writer in North Carolina," said Anthony Abbott, a retired Davidson College English professor and writer who's teaching a series on Price and spirituality at Charlotte's Myers Park Baptist Church.
The 77-year-old Price taught English at Duke University, his alma mater, for more than 50 years. He published more than three dozen books, won awards and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
He survived spinal cancer, though the treatment that saved his life in the mid 1980s left him in a wheelchair, a paraplegic, dependent on a live-in assistant.
Born in Warren County, Price found literary fame in 1962 with his novel "A Long and Happy Life" _ the story of Rosacoke Mustian, a young North Carolina woman with a difficult boyfriend, Wesley Beavers. It won the William Faulkner Award for a notable first novel.
Over the years, Price published poetry, novels, memoirs, essays, theology. In 1986, his novel "Kate Vaiden" received the National Book Critics Circle Award.
In 1994, he published "A Whole New Life," his memoir of cancer and recovery. In a 2009 interview with the Observer, he said he still heard from readers inspired and encouraged by that book.
Price lived in his native North Carolina almost his entire life.
"He remained at Duke and in the South for so long, and I think being so close to home was important," said James Schiff, a University of Cincinnati English professor and author of "Understanding Reynolds Price."
"He was a little like Thoreau, Dickinson, Faulkner or Welty. He stayed close to home and created a territory all his own. That's really unique about his writing. You'd read a Reynolds Price story and it doesn't sound like anybody else."
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