5.38 Reynolds Price The Source of Light

ISBN 13: 9780684813387

The Source of Light

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9780684813387: The Source of Light

Here is the second volume of A Great Circle, the highly acclaimed Mayfield family trilogy, from one of America's literary treasures.
Though a novel independent from The Surface of Earth, The Source of Light continues the saga of the Mayfield family, here focusing on Hutchins Mayfield, whose desire for self-knowledge removes him from his secure existence as a prep school teacher and takes him on a journey to Oxford and Italy to study and write. Hutchins comes back home for a family crisis but ultimately returns to England, where he achieves a maturity that enables him to cope with commitments, abandonments, and the creation of an honest personal agenda.
In The Source of Light, Reynolds Price combines gravity and buoyancy, a mythic sense of the past with the mysteries of place, to forge an encompassing portrait of the strange and various world one travels through in the quest for self-fulfillment.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Reynolds Price (1933-2011) was born in Macon, North Carolina. Educated at Duke University and, as a Rhodes Scholar, at Merton College, Oxford University, he taught at Duke beginning in 1958 and was the James B. Duke Professor of English at the time of his death. His first short stories, and many later ones, are published in his Collected Stories. A Long and Happy Life was published in 1962 and won the William Faulkner Award for a best first novel. Kate Vaiden was published in 1986 and won the National Book Critics Circle Award. The Good Priest's Son in 2005 was his fourteenth novel. Among his thirty-seven volumes are further collections of fiction, poetry, plays, essays, and translations. Price is a member of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and his work has been translated into seventeen languages.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1

THE PRINCIPLE OF PERTURBATIONS

MAY-AUGUST 1955

Hutchins Mayfield had stripped and faced the water, intending to enter before his father and stage the drowned-man act to greet him. But turning in the half-dark cubicle, he was stopped by sight of another man, naked also, close there beside him. He took two quick steps to leave, then knew -- a dressing mirror he'd failed to notice hung on the pine wall. He went back and looked, not having seen himself for a while -- not alone and startled, fresh for study. (In fact, except for negligent shaves, it had been two weeks -- his twenty-fifth birthday. He'd been in Richmond that night with Ann; his grandmother tracked him down by phone to wish him luck. He'd borne her rambling a little impatiently; so she closed by saying, "Have you checked your looks now you're over the hill? -- twenty-five is the downside in our family, Hutch, whatever doctors say. Twenty-five, we're grown." He'd checked in Ann's bureau mirror and confirmed it.) Now he studied his groin, full in the warm day, and thought how little it had caused but pleasure -- a grown man's first means of work hung on him, an aging toy. But he smiled and reached a hand toward the cool glass, stroked the dim image. It bobbed in gratitude -- pony, pet turtle -- and Hutch laughed once, then heard his father's voice at the pool.

"What things will this cure?" Rob Mayfield said.

"Sir?" -- the Negro attendant.

Now an exchange was promised in the earliest consoling sound of Hutch's life -- a white voice, a black voice twined and teasing. He stood to wait it out.

"Which one of all my many troubles will this spring cure?"

"They tell us not to make big claims no more. Used to say kidneys, liver, eczema, the worst kind of blues, warts, falling hair. Whatever they tell me, it cured my feet. I was born flat-footed."

Rob said "Bathing fixed them?"

"No, never. I drink it. But it sure God jacked these feet off the ground. Born glued to the floor; now my kids play under em -- run in and out, hide all in the shade. This your first time here?"

Rob said, "Yes. Thirty years ago I lived in Goshen, but I never got over the mountain somehow."

"Shame on you then," the Negro said. "Goshen ain't nothing but sand and cold river. Warm Springs would have helped you, just twenty minutes west."

"It seemed farther then. The road was bad."

"Beautiful now. Go on; step in -- never too late."

Rob laughed but said "Oh it is." Then he moved.

Hutch came to the door of the cubicle to look -- Rob Mayfield's back. His father stripped was something he really hadn't seen, not for years.

Fifty-one years old but still white and firm in waist and hams, Rob stooped to grip the rafts of the stairs and descended slowly into eight feet of clear water bubbling from the earth, precisely the heat of a well human body. Then he swam four strokes to the center of the pool; embraced the ridgepole and looked back, smiling, to his only child. "I should have found this thirty years ago. Might have changed some things."

Hutch also gripped the rails but paused at the top. "What things?"

Rob continued smiling and paddled his hair back, still barely gray, but said no more.

Hutch looked for the Negro. He was back out of sight with his radio; so Hutch could say, "You might not have had me." He grinned but was earnest.

"I didn't say that."

"I've been the main trouble for most of those years."

"Never said that either."

Hutch nodded -- it was true -- but he stood on, dry in the thick warm air of late afternoon, and looked at what seemed the only block in his path: this middle-sized man, drenched and curling. The main thing he'd loved, that might yet stop him.

Rob clapped his hands once. "Were you ever baptized?"

"Not in my recollection."

"Then descend," Rob said and raised his right arm. The smile never broke, but he said "Father. Son --"

Hutch slowly descended. They laughed together as Hutch's head sank. But he didn't rise. He went straight into the drowning tableau -- emptied his lungs so he fell to the smooth rocks that paved the spring and sprawled there, lit by green light that pierced the water.

It worked. Rob saw him as dead, that quickly -- dead limbs gently flapped by currents, the long hair snaky. Yet he didn't move; he called the Negro. "Sam, step here."

The man was named Franklin, but he came at a trot.

Rob pointed down.

Franklin nodded. "Dead again." He stared a long moment. "Looks real, don't it? He do that a lot, every time he come -- like to scared his young friend to death last week."

Hutch jerked to life and thrust toward the surface. He broke out, streaming; faced his father, and said "-- Holy Ghost."

Rob said "Welcome."

They swam, sank, floated for the hour they'd purchased. No other bather joined them, and Franklin stayed off in his own little room. Within three minutes of the drowning, they had calmed. The water's constant match of their own body-heat soon made it a companion -- gentle, promising of perfect fidelity: the craving of both men, in different ways. To Hutch it seemed a large faceless woman -- spread and open, inescapable -- into which he inserted his whole free body; four times in the hour he stiffened and fell. To Rob it finally seemed a place -- the original lake in which he had formed, which he'd left insanely but had now found again, and in which he'd dissolve. They scarcely spoke, only fragments of pleasure. They felt no need, for the first time ever in one another's presence. When the hour was up and Franklin came, they were deep in separate dreams of safety.

Franklin said "You shriveling yet?"

Rob looked to Hutch.

Hutch looked at his own right hand. "A little."

"Then time to get out. Hour's all you can stand." Franklin held white towels like gifts more tempting than the spring itself.

Hutch swam the strokes that put him by his father. That whole charged body was covered with beads of air like an armor. He reached out and wiped his hand down Rob's chest, clearing a space.

Rob took the wrist and, not releasing it, swam back an arm's length to focus the face. "I'll try not ever to forget this," he said. "You please try the same."

"I can promise," Hutch said.

"No, just try."

Hutch nodded and they swam together toward the stairs.

In the safe dreamy hour, Rob had found no way to tell his son what he'd had confirmed two days ago -- that Rob Mayfield, early as it was, would be dead by winter; that the body which had served him unfailingly till now had conceived and was feeding in a lobe of its right lung a life that would need nothing less than all. At the stairs he said "You first. You're slower." He wanted that instant of sight to decide.

Hutch gave it. He climbed out strongly but paused on the top step, not looking back; then he cupped his face in both large hands and shuddered hard -- only once but enough.

Rob saw that to tell him now before the end would be to stop the trip he'd planned, that he'd leaned his life on mysteriously. Or, if he should still leave in face of the news, to show him as the final demon of dreams-faithless after decades of smooth deceit. Rob took the rails also. Against the lovely pull of the spring -- its promise of care -- he hauled himself and his fresh partner up.

2

They ate a good supper at the Warm Springs Inn (mountain trout, new lettuce) and set out at eight in clear cool darkness to drive the pickup on to Hutch's near Edom -- some sixty miles north through mountains and valleys, and they both were tired. Rob had started up from North Carolina at noon to meet Hutch at five. Hutch had thumbed down from Edom; the bath was his idea. So Hutch drove now and -- through the first mountain, cross the Cowpasture River -- they said very little. Past the river Hutch realized his whole idea would force Goshen on them -- on his father at least, who had not been there in eight or nine years. They had already passed two signs naming Goshen, but it still lay a quarter-hour ahead, and Rob had not mentioned it since talking to Franklin. So Hutch said, "Tell me what you want me to do" (meaning, stop at the grave or drive on past).

Rob said, "Be a better man than me at least."

Hutch started to explain but accepted the delay. "Tell me how to go about it."

"I expect you know. You've lived a quarter-century; you've hurt nobody, not that I know of."

Hutch said "I killed my mother."

"You couldn't help that. I couldn't keep you from her. Rachel pulled you out of me by main force, Son; and she held on to you, but you had to come out. Rachel died of bad luck. Your luck was better -- and my luck, to have you."

"Thank you," Hutch said, "but still tell me how."

Rob turned to the dim profile beside him. "I was answering politely, just words to say. I couldn't tell a dog how to bury a bone, much less a grown man how to live. I don't even understand your plan."

Hutch glanced across. "The trip?"

"Well, no. I did a little wandering myself -- sooner than you, on a smaller map: a few whistle-stops in southwest Virginia. Europe was torn up all through my freedom. No I meant what comes once you've seen the world and are back here, ticking through the numerous years. You're counting on the ravens to feed you apparently; they often renege."

Hutch smiled at the road. "I can do two things that'll tide me over if the ravens fail -- teach children English and make women think they've been rushed to Heaven before their time." Since he was grown he had hardly mentioned love to his father.

Rob remembered that and waited. Then he said, "How many would you estimate you'd rushed?"

"Sir?"

"Women, to Heaven -- how many have you sent?"

Hutch said "I was joking."r

Rob said, "I'm not. I'd like to know. It would help me to know what women mean to you. It's a danger that runs in your family, you've noticed -- the Mayfield side."

Hutch also waited. His window was open on the loud spring night; it spoke at their silence -- incessant jangle of small life signaling, no one creature mute in solitude, even the fox that crossed before them musky with lure. He thought that awhile; then said, "It would help me too. I doubt I know. I've liked two or three women more than anybody -- Alice Matthews, Polly. I may need Ann Gatlin -- she hopes I do; I hope I do."

"But you haven't asked Ann to marry you yet?"

Hutch said, "Worse -- I've asked her not to visit me in Europe. She'd started on plans to join me for Christmas."

"What made you do that?"

Hutch waited again, then tried the answer he'd offered Ann. "I think I need air."

"To do what in?"

"-- Need stillness around me."

Rob said, "Nine-tenths of the world's population works eight or ten hours a day more than you. You've rested, Son. Lie back and be grateful."

Hutch laughed. "You hit it. I'm so well-rested my mind is souring but grateful I'm not. I'm an aging boy, as you point out. I need to work and I think I'm going toward it."

"Ann Gatlin sounds like a nice job to me, a fine evening shift -- the one shift that pays."

Hutch said "She'd like that."

"What's wrong with that?"

"I didn't know you rated Ann very high."

Rob said, "Now I do. She wants you around. She means to last."

Hutch said "I think you're right."

"But you're holding her off?"

"For now. No choice."

Rob said "There you're wrong."

"I can't take her with me."

"Then ask her to wait. Hell, beg her." Rob looked away.

They let another patch of silence spread. By now the river was steady beside them in the unseen gorge. Its chilly clatter blanked all other sounds; and when the patch had lasted three minutes and Hutch had thought of nothing but fear -- fear of failing his kin, fear of finally knowing no work to do, fear of solitude -- he said, "You can see I have brought you to Goshen." The meanness was instant filth on his tongue.

But Rob answered calmly. "I noticed you had. I figured you would." He leaned forward, opened the glove compartment, drew out a flashlight, and shone it on Hutch. "So I came prepared. Stop by Rachel's grave."

Hutch nodded. "Two miles."

Rob said, "Time enough to tell you this story. May prove useful someday. It's named `Little Hubert.' Little Hubert used to like the girls in kindergarten. One day tile teacher sent his mother a note -- Hubert runs his hand up all the girls' dresses. Please tell him to quit -- so his mother said, `Son, do you know what girls have under their dresses?' Hubert said `No ma'm.' She said, `A pink mouth with a lot of sharp teeth. Remember that.' Hubert said, `Yes ma'm. Thank you for the tip.' And he acted on it -- never touched a girl, though he did a lot of dreaming and a lot of self-service. Twenty-five years of good behavior passed. Then a woman named Charlene chased him down -- flat wouldn't let Hubert say No, even Maybe -- and they got married. Went to Tampa on their honeymoon, palm trees and moonlight; danced till near-dawn when Charlene asked him if it wasn't time for bed. Hubert said `O.K.' and they went upstairs. It took her about an hour, but finally Charlene came out of the bathroom all sweet and ready in a peach satin gown. Hubert was long since under the covers in flannel pajamas, more than half-asleep. But she slid in beside him and commenced to stroke his arm till Hubert said, `I thought you were tired.' She said, `But Sugar, you haven't even touched me' and pulled his hand toward you-know-where. He jerked back fast and said `No you don't!' She said, `What do you mean? This is my first night!' Hubert said, `Go to it. But count me out. I know what you're hiding down there.' She said `Just what's normal, silly.' He said, `So right! -- the normal set of teeth. I'm not risking my good fingers on you.' And he was about to head back into sleep when she said, `Sugar, you're out of your mind -- my teeth are in my head. Look here.' She threw back the sheets and raised that gown. So Hubert sat up and bent over gradually and took a long look. Then he said, `No wonder! Good night, Charlene! Just look at the condition of those poor gums?'"

Hutch laughed; he'd never heard it.

Rob sat like a stuffed Baptist preacher through the laughter; but when Hutch subsided, he said, "Don't forget it, especially in Europe. The gums over there make ours look healthy." Then he switched the flashlight on, at his own face, and turned to his son -- a wide bright grin. "You know he was wrong, little Hubert -- don't you?"

Hutch smiled. "Yes sir --"

"Very sadly wrong."

Hutch said, "Yes sir, I have reason to know."

"You're not afraid, are you?"

"Not of that," Hutch said. Then he slowed to turn left.

In a Stepin Fetchit voice, Rob said, "You mean you scared of dead folks, cap'n?"

Hutch said "I may be."

"And you may be right."

They had stopped at a pair of shut iron gates. The headlights showed the nearest stones, which were also the oldest -- marble tree-trunks, lambs, the locally famous seated-boy-with-birddog (an only son, self-shot while hunting). Hutch doused the lights but made no move, though the plan had been his.

At last Rob opened the door in darkness and stepped to the ground. He stood a minute while his eyes adjusted; when Hutch didn't move, he took a long leak. Then he looked back once at the truck -- only outlines -- and went on to climb the easy gates. On the other side he lit his flashlight and walked a knowing path forward, fair...

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Book Description Scribner Book Company. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Paperback. 336 pages. Dimensions: 8.1in. x 5.2in. x 0.7in.Here is the second volume of A Great Circle, the highly acclaimed Mayfield family trilogy, from one of Americas literary treasures. Though a novel independent from The Surface of Earth, The Source of Light continues the saga of the Mayfield family, here focusing on Hutchins Mayfield, whose desire for self-knowledge removes him from his secure existence as a prep school teacher and takes him on a journey to Oxford and Italy to study and write. Hutchins comes back home for a family crisis but ultimately returns to England, where he achieves a maturity that enables him to cope with commitments, abandonments, and the creation of an honest personal agenda. In The Source of Light, Reynolds Price combines gravity and buoyancy, a mythic sense of the past with the mysteries of place, to forge an encompassing portrait of the strange and various world one travels through in the quest for self-fulfillment. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Bookseller Inventory # 9780684813387

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