Saturday, March 5, 2016

Pat Conroy

My world lost some of its light sometime during the night when I turned on the radio and learned of the death of Pat Conroy.

The man was a genius. A tortured genius, to be sure, but many of us have had unpleasant childhoods. What he had above and beyond a horrific childhood and tortured adulthood was the ability to write the English language with poetic beauty. He wrote of horrible things, but did it with such beauty and elegance that we were enthralled. I have read and often reread almost all of his books, and seen most of the ensuing movies. Oddly enough, my favorite of the bunch was Conrack, the first, derived from one of his first books The Water is Wide.

He first came to my attention way back in the late 1980s when I walked into a bookstore on Peachtree Road in the Buckhead section of Atlanta and found a large in-your-face display of trade paperback copies of The Prince of Tides. My literary life was changed forever. I remember reading the pages with utter astonishment, often reading sentences or paragraphs over and over simply to soak in the beauty and lyrical nature so inherent in his writing. He had a way of stringing common words together with uncommon skill and beauty. Profound. Little did I know that he lived not far from me at the time, on a street I traveled with some frequency.

I've looked forward to each new release since. Now, there will be no more. He was overweight for many years, led an indulgent lifestyle that wasn't the healthiest, and those things inevitably lead to deterioration and death of a human body. I'm happy that he found contentment and release from the tortures about his father with The Death of Santini, and that he found happiness in his later years with his third marriage. He lived and died in the place he loved best: Beaufort, SC. Having been there, thinking of him all the time I explored the town and wondering which of the historic homes was the one he'd lived in as a child, I can fully understand what drew him there. If money wasn't an issue, Beaufort would certainly be near the top of any list of places I'd like to live. Unfortunately, a great light has left Beaufort and its aura forever changed. RIP.

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