cover image Collected Stories of Reynolds Price

Collected Stories of Reynolds Price

Reynolds Price. Scribner Book Company, $25 (640pp) ISBN 978-0-689-12147-0

Indisputably one of our most masterly writers, Price ( Kate Vaiden ; Blue Calhoun ) bends to no literary fashion; he writes about unsung, ordinary people, lifting their lives out of anonymity. Of the 50 stories in this third collection of his short fiction, half are newly gathered; the rest come from collections published in 1963 and 1970. Many of the characters in these magical, quietly revelatory, death-obsessed tales are transformed by chance encounters, in settings that include Price's native south but also range throughout the world. ``Walking Lessons'' concerns a college teacher who comes to terms with his wife's suicide after assisting a dying Navajo woman on her reservation. In ``An Early Christmas,'' a divorced American painter, a lapsed Catholic, sets off to attend Christmas mass in Bethlehem, where he finds a fresh perspective on his life and art through meetings with Palestinian Arabs in the occupied West Bank. The same generosity of spirit and penetrating insight that mark Price's novels infuse these unsparingly honest narratives. His characters grope almost blindly toward redemption, their earned epiphanies lifting them slightly closer to ``the mind of God.'' Everywhere they stumble upon the abyss, whether as a tourist at the Dachau concentration camp (``A Fool's Education''); a man who kidnaps his granddaughter (``Toward Home''); or the (perhaps autobiographical) survivor of four spinal surgery operations steeled by the memory of a long dead cousin (``The Golden Child.'') In nearly every story, Price's unflinching celebrations of life and death cut to the bone. (June)