Midstream: An Unfinished Memoir

Reynolds Price. Scribner, $25 (192p) ISBN 978-1-4391-8349-6
Price died of a heart attack before he could complete his memoir, the fourth in a series of autobiographical volumes. A prolific writer and academic, he spent more than five decades teaching at Duke University, his alma mater. The book begins in 1961 as Price, not even 30-years-old, returns to Oxford following his first three years teaching at Duke. His first novel, A Long and Happy Life, is about to be published in the U.S. to considerable praise, setting the writer on the road to literary renown. The book is full of anecdotes about famous figures, including philosopher/author Iris Murdoch, actress Natalie Wood, W.H. Auden, William Faulkner, and even Ronald Reagan, but the most scintillating scene finds the author lunching with mega-couple Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in Rome while they're filming Cleopatra. However, the essence of the writer himself disappears behind these mildly amusing stories. The most poignant pages come when he recounts his mother's death: "Despite the fact that I'd loved her unquestionably more, and longer, than anyone else in my life, I'd just instructed the doctor…to permit this body that had made my body more than thirty years ago, and had since dealt with me in boundless generosity, to rush ahead and die." Had Price been able to complete his memoir, perhaps the message would be clear, but as it is, the reader is left wondering why he was writing it at all. Photos. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/21/2012
Release date: 05/01/2012
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