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The pairings reveal more about Price and his work than any inventory could; they are followed by brief essays from Santor and Harris describing their friend and the experience of trying to narrate his work through photographs.Dream of a House is more like a visual biography than an attempt at making a museum between two covers, and Price’s estate seems to have chosen actively against the common model of leaving the house as it was when the writer lived there.A few weeks after Reynolds Price died in January of 2011, his friend Alex Harris took a camera into the writer’s house, where Price had lived since 1965.
Anne Trubek wrote a “Skeptic’s Guide” to writers’ homes, while A. Devers founded an entire That website won’t be updated to include Reynolds Price.
Instead Dream of a House captures where the writer worked, and makes visible his lifelong study of stasis and movement.
“I worked at first like a photographic archivist,” he says, “with a responsibility to preserve and record Reynolds’s home as precisely and accurately as I could.” Some of these photographs were included in an exhibition in the Rubenstein Photography Gallery at Duke University, but more than sixty of them can be found in Dream of a House: The Passions and Preoccupations of Reynolds Price.
Price, who taught at Duke for decades, was born in Macon, North Carolina, less than a hundred miles away from the house that Harris photographed.
He liked to write for six hours a day, six days a week, for eight months of the year, preferably at his own desk in the deckhouse, producing 350 or so words every day.
Slowly and steadily, he published 41 books: memoirs, novels, plays, translations, and volumes of poetry.Together they populate a life that Price described over and over again as long and happy.“I’ve yet to watch,” he once wrote with equal puck and piety, “another life that seems to have brought more pleasure than mine has to me.”Price described his creative work not so much as writing, but transcribing.Not long after Alex Harris took his photographs, the house was sold to one of Price’s former students.Writer’s houses are common destinations for the literary pilgrim.He wrote extensively about what it was like to live in a wheelchair, but his comments were not so much an attempt at explaining his body and its limitations, as his soul and its longings.“I’ve made conscious choices to stay as still as I could,” Price said once in an interview, “so that I could have that kind of position from which to gauge movement.Birthplaces, homesteads, dorm rooms, prison cells: almost any dwelling will do.Emily Dickinson’s house in Amherst is open to visitors, as is the Brontë Parsonage in Haworth.For some, these houses are destinations because of the connections between a literary work and where it was written; for others, they are occasions for learning more about an author by seeing where she spent her early, married, mad, or dying years.These spaces also provide opportunities for fellowship in what is often the solitary activity of reading, a place for admirers to meet and share their enthusiasm.