Monday, March 21, 2011

My Reading Life by Pat Conroy

When I get around to authoring “my reading life”, there will be a Pat Conroy chapter. I’ve read all his books except South of Broad, and I will read it eventually, maybe even before there’s a movie version. I like Conroy’s books and have some parallels to relate.
Pat Conroy lived in South Carolina. I lived in North Carolina. He is an English major. I’m an English major. He taught school. I taught school. His father was a Marine who served as a model for The Great Santini. My father was a Marine who served on Iwo Jima and inspired the teen-aged me to start a story about the two flag raisings. Fortunately for the literary world, James Bradley came along a few years later and did the story justice with his memoir, Flags of Our Fathers. This is where my Conroy comparison falls apart, which is a good thing because I want to focus on his reading and writing life, which are inextricably linked.

Conroy is a epic storyteller and character crafter, and I love stories with characters who become my friends. Fortunately My Reading Life, a collection of fifteen essays, reads like a story about books and those in his life who love books and those who write books. How can I resist chapters on his mother whose favorite book is Gone with the Wind and a high school teacher who takes Pat, enthralled by Look Homeward Angel, to Ashville to visit Thomas Wolfe’s home? There’s also a librarian, a book store proprietor, his book rep, “Why I Write” and more. Some critics will argue that Conroy is a conceited bore and a wordy windbag whose prose meanders around emotionally exhausting journeys. He is, after all, by his own words a “Southern writer.” Reading Conroy is like dining at a Southern buffet. Sometimes I devour every word; other times I scrape off the icing and delve into what’s underneath.

~Michelle, Adult Services

Reading soon:

Books: a Memoir by Larry McMurtry

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