I get together with a group of friends occasionally and have “book night.” We discuss a certain piece, share favorite poetry or read some of our own writings. We also seem to have a fondness for knowing how our favorite writers wrote. One writer who has had a great impact on others with his style and story writing abilities is Pat Conroy. Crawfordsville District Public Library has recently purchased “A Low Country Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life,” by Pat Conroy.
It is actually a collection of blog postings, letters, essays and an interview put together by his editor, Nan Talese, and his wife, Cassandra King. I did not know much about him beforehand, but just reading his wife’s introduction makes me wish I had met this man. She relates that “someone wrote that Pat didn’t fill up a room when he entered it, he WAS the room.” He was kind, he was effusive, he cared about his readers, and he could tell a story to keep you glued to the pages of the book. I have read a couple of his books; I always thought he could fill a sentence with the best of the southern writers.
The first offering of his writing is his entrance into the cyber world of blogging. He never really liked to blog, or have a website or even own anything electronic. But with his usual candor, he relates highly personal information, but in a way that doesn’t make you feel sorry for him. You just want to sit with him and swap stories. He tells of his Citadel basketball buddies, beautiful wives of close friends and recounts how various authors, name after name, have influenced his writing. He never says anything bad about anyone; in fact, he will elaborate on all their good points.
The one person he fails to speak well of is his father, who was written about in “The Great Santini.” His father was a highly-regimented, abusive, mean Marine who made everyone in the family miserable. Many writers have come from poor childhoods, and Conroy is a shining example of that. He plumbed the depths of his family’s misery and put down on paper the feelings and experiences that many people have had, but perhaps were not able to relate, or even admit to their existence. He met many people at book signings throughout his career who were in tears when they met him, and were then able to tell him their own sad tales of best-forgotten childhoods. And he would listen. And he would remember them, and he would tell them to write it themselves. He was a great encourager of young writers, and liked to follow their careers.
We have several Conroy books available on the CDPL shelves and on Hoopla. Hoopla has “The Water is Wide,” “Prince of Tides,” “The Boo: A Tribute to the Man Who Ruled the Citadel,” “The Lords of Discipline” and “The Great Santini.” The “Prince of Tides” movie, starring Barbra Streisand and Nick Nolte, is also available at CDPL in our DVD collection.