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Peter Taylor; Novelist Won Pulitzer Prize in 1987

November 05, 1994|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Peter Taylor, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist in the tradition of William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor whose stories poignantly chronicled the slow disappearance of the Southern aristocracy, is dead at age 77.

Taylor died of pneumonia Wednesday night at the University of Virginia Hospital. He had suffered a series of strokes.

He won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for "A Summons to Memphis," about a man called home by his sisters to stop their widowed father from remarrying. It was Taylor's first novel in nearly 40 years.

Before that, Taylor was known as a short-story writer whose collections never sold more than a few thousand copies.

"I write not because I want to, but because I have to," he said in an interview after winning the Pulitzer at age 70.

Taylor's latest novel, "In the Tennessee Country," was praised by critics when it was published in September. It tells the melancholy story of a man looking back on his life.

Taylor published his first book in 1948, "A Long Fourth and Other Stories."

His stories included elaborate descriptions of the well-heeled world of the Southern gentry in Nashville, Memphis and other cities. Many of his characters struggle to adjust to the end of the lush lifestyles of their childhoods.

Writer Joyce Carol Oates called "The Collected Stories of Peter Taylor," published in 1969, "one of the major works of our literature."

"Summons to Memphis" also won the $50,000 Ritz Paris Hemingway literary prize in 1987. Taylor was the first author writing in English to win the prize.

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