Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Novalyne Price

Robert E. Howard, the stunningly prolific master of pulp literature who brought us Conan the Barbarian, Kull the Conqueror, and, uh, Dark Agnes de Chastillon, did it all for the one true love of his life. And her name was Novalyne Price.

According to Wikipedia:

Price initially sought out Howard for advice as to how she could get her writing published. Common interests and personal chemistry, however, created a strong bond of friendship between the two. Despite personality differences, misunderstandings, and unsuccessful attempts to bring their relationship beyond casual dating, Price and Howard remained close until Howard's suicide in 1936. After Howard's death, Price shifted her focus away from a writing career and strove to become the best teacher she could be, ultimately remaining a teacher until her retirement.

Throughout her life, Price did sell a number of articles and short stories, but it is her 1986 memoir (One Who Walked Alone) about her relationship with Howard for which she is best known. The movie, The Whole Wide World, starring Vincent D'Onofrio and Renée Zellweger is a direct adaptation of One Who Walked Alone.

Her influence on Howard's writing may be best seen in "Red Nails", published in Weird Tales after a trip to New Mexico with Truett Vinson, during which he discovered that Vinson had also been dating Price at the same time. He and Price never spoke again.

Howard committed suicide in 1936. He had made oblique foreshadowing of this when he told Price she was "in his sear and yellow leaf." Although the phrase sounded familiar to Price at the time, it was not until later that she discovered the source was Shakespeare's Macbeth:

I have liv'd long enough: my way of life
Is fall'n into the sear, the yellow leaf;
And that which should accompany old age,
As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends,
I must not look to have; but, in their stead,
Curses, not loud but deep, mouth-honour, breath,
Which the poor heart would fain deny, and dare not.

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