Novelist, Professor Reynolds Price Dies

Former All Things Considered commentator Reynolds Price, the celebrated writer of fiction, poetry, memoirs, essays and plays — who turned a three-year teaching appointment into more than 50 years on the faculty at Duke University — died Thursday at the age of 77. Price, the James B. Duke Professor of English at his alma matter, had a major heart attack early Sunday.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Two literary obituaries now. From North Carolina comes news that Reynolds Price died today. He was a longtime Duke University English professor and he was, in every sense of the word, a writer.

Mr. REYNOLDS PRICE (writer): I've written everything from novels to television commercials. I once wrote the text for a Calvin Klein commercial, a confession I only now made public. But even I have yet to write an epitaph.

SIEGEL: That was from a commentary Reynolds Price wrote for ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. He was a contributor from 1996 until 2002.

Reynolds Price was a Southern writer. He set most of his books in his native North Carolina. And he was, in the words of Duke University President Richard Brodhead, a part of the soul of Duke.

His connection with us began with a story in 1996 about a speech he made at Founder's Day in 1992, when he called the Duke campus to account for what he called the most commonly heard sentence in the dining halls.

Mr. PRICE: The sentence runs more or less like this, in male or female voice - I can't believe how drunk I was last night.

SIEGEL: The speech launched a season of self-scrutiny at Duke. For the last 25 years of his life, Reynolds Price was paraplegic. That was the result of a malignant spinal tumor and the surgeries and radiation he underwent. He suffered a heart attack on Sunday and he died this afternoon. Reynolds Price was 77.

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