cover image Ardent Spirits: Leaving Home, Coming Back

Ardent Spirits: Leaving Home, Coming Back

Reynolds Price, . . Scribner, $30 (408pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-9189-7

In this new memoir, award-winning novelist Price (Kate Vaiden ) takes up where his 1989 Clear Pictures left off—with a young Price heading for England on a Rhodes scholarship, a young man lighting into new and unfamiliar territories and the lessons he learns about literature, life and love. Covering the years 1955 to 1961, Price chronicles the challenges of living in a strange place, his emotional insecurities and his anxieties about his ability to complete the thesis on Milton, his adventures in Europe with a close friend and his eventual return to his alma mater, Duke University, to teach writing and literature. Along the way, Price recalls his friendships with Stephen Spender, Cyril Connolly, W.H. Auden and his brief encounters with Jean-Paul Sartre and J.R.R. Tolkien. Price's memoir also displays the tenacious desire with which, after warm encouragement from Eudora Welty and William Styron, he embarks on a round of writing that produces his first novel, A Long and Happy Life , published to acclaim in 1962. Although the detail can be tiresomely meticulous, Price, as usual, powerfully articulates the strength of memory in shaping our lives and gracefully draws us into a literary life lived fully. Photos. (May)