THE SURFACE OF THE EARTH
by REYNOLDS PRICE 491 pages. Atheneum. $10.95.
Reynolds Price's first novel, A Long and Happy Life, appeared in 1962, the year of William Faulkner's death. The coincidence was not lost on litterateurs. Ever since, Price has been the odds-on favorite of those who believe that the U.S. must always have a Southern writer-in-residence whispering of dark doings behind the magnolia. This dreadnought of a family saga (Price's fourth novel) proves that he has earned the title. It is also strong evidence that the post is obsolete.
Despite its prodigious length, respectful traditionalism and grim high seriousness, The Surface of...