cover image Whole New Life

Whole New Life

Reynolds Price. Scribner Book Company, $21 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-689-12197-5

Novelist and poet Reynolds Price ( A Long and Happy Life ) here manages to turn his battle with spine cancer into a tough, sometimes funny, always moving and optimistic tale. His writing is eloquent enough to encompass his worst anguish; but his intellectual rigor, combined with religious convictions that never desert him, precludes self pity. Price now cheerfully calls himself ``a certified gimp, in working order.'' He was first diagnosed in 1984 and during the next four years had surgery, suffered continual and severe pain and became permanently confined to a wheelchair: ``My whole body felt caught in the threads of a giant hot screw and bolted inward to the point of screaming.'' He was heavily drugged and unable to function as either a writer or a friend. In 1987, he began treatment with hypnotist Patrick Logue of Duke University's psychiatric department with remarkable results: ``I instantly knew I was free in a way I'd never felt before in my life, surely not for a moment of the past three years.'' Price learned from Logue to manage his pain without drugs and is writing again: fiction, essays, movie and TV scripts and the affecting poems here. His book is for all who suffer. Through it, with utter simplicity, threads a testament to the power of prayer, which Price calls ``the first strong prop beneath my own collapse.'' He concludes ``I've lead a mainly happy life,'' and, more astonishingly, ``I know that this new life is better for me.'' What higher praise is there than to say we believe him? (May)