“That Pendulum Tick”: An Interview with Reynolds Price



At 92Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center, The Paris Review has copresented an occasional series of live conversations with writers—many of which have formed the foundations of interviews in the quarterly. Recently, 92Y and The Paris Review have made recordings of these interviews available at 92Y’s Poetry Center Online and here at The Paris Review. Consider them deleted scenes from our Writers at Work interviews, or directors’ cuts, or surprisingly lifelike radio adaptations.

This week we’re rolling out the four latest editions to the collection: Horton Foote, Gail Godwin, Reynolds Price, and Tony Kushner. All are Southerners, and as coincidence would have it, we’re just in time for the 150th anniversary of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House and the end of the Civil War, on April 9.

Today: a conversation between Reynolds Price and Frederick Busch from November 12, 1990. Price, who died in 2011, was known for his shrewd novels of the South, especially of North Carolina, where he was born and lived for most of his life. He wrote what he called “books about human freedom—the limits thereof, the possibilities thereof, the impossibilities thereof.” His talk with Busch went on to inform his Art of Fiction interview in the Review, published the following winter:

I still enjoy fiction that is as broadly based as possible, and I think the majority of my own work is not primarily rural. It’s primarily small town to small city and rural. Richmond, Virginia, and Raleigh, North Carolina are about as large as cities get in my work until now … but I love the revealing truth of that tick, that pendulum tick back and forth between city and country.

Tomorrow, we’ll unveil the last of the interviewers in our Southerners series: a 1986 interview between Gail Godwin and John Irving. In the meantime, you can check out some previous installments of the 92Y series: the poets (Maya Angelou, Denise Levertov, and Gary Snyder) and the travel writers (Paul Theroux, Jan Morris, and Peter Matthiessen).

We are able to share these recordings thanks to a generous gift in memory of Christopher Lightfoot Walker, longtime friend of the Poetry Center and The Paris Review.

Dan Piepenbring is the web editor of The Paris Review.