Today’s post is by Barbara in Robbinsdale
Pat Conroy, author of The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini, et al., died last week on March 4, 2016. He wrote prolifically about a harrowing childhood in which his father played a huge role – his military style of parenting; the verbal and emotional abuse he visited on Conroy and his siblings; and the “military brat” lifestyle of moving around the South – 24 places by the time Conroy was 15. Conroy’s writing both “saved” him, and was the cause of more conflict – in the form of rifts with family members throughout his adult life.
Four of Pat Conroy’s books became movies:
- The Water is Wide, 1972 (movie 1974, Conrack) (also a Hallmark TV presentation, 2006)
- The Great Santini, 1976 (movie 1979)
- The Lords of Discipline, 1980 (movie 1983)
- The Prince of Tides, 1986 (movie 1991)
In his final memoir, The Death of Santini (2013), he may have finally achieved a degree of closure and peace about his father. But as I listened last week to a “Talking Volumes” interview with MPR’s Kerry Miller, it was the stories he told about his mother that enchanted me, and shaped the rest of his life – how “she made reading the most important thing a person could do.” She took all the kids (ultimately seven) to the library every week, and they each checked out as many books as they were allowed (5 books in most libraries). They would then “read ‘em and trade ‘em,” so the kids might read as many as 25 books a week!
Literature became as real as anything else in the world, “and my mother made it that way.” She would read to him at bedtime each night, one of the first in his memory (at about age 5) being her favorite: Gone with the Wind.” He remembered it this way in the interview:
“Now Pa-at… when you hear me read about Scarlett O’hara, it is quite naturally for you to mistake Miss Scarlett for your own pretty mama. And when you read about that dastardly Rhett Butler, you can think about your fighter pilot father in Korea.” And she said, “When you think about Melanie Wilkes you can think about your tacky Aunt Helen… that girl don’t have a lick of sense and no personality whatsoever.”
When she read that way, with “every character in that book she could associate somebody we knew – it was the first time I knew there was a relationship between life and art.”
The more I read about Pat Conroy, i.e. from his website, http://www.patconroy.com/about.php
the more of his books I want to read, especially The Death of Santini, and The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of my Life.
Is there a book in your “repertoire” in which you can insert people you know for some memorable character(s)?