Friday, October 20, 2006

More books

I just finished another book yesterday. It's one I've had for years and put off reading despite its author, Pat Conroy, being one of my favorites. My Losing Season was every wonderful thing I expected it to be, but I know why I put off reading it for so long.

Conroy is a master of language. His words dance, spin and stab like few other authors. I've had to read passages of his books aloud because they're so beautiful. The family knows by now, when I'm reading Conroy, to expect, "Oh, listen to this." His descriptions are poetry, yet I've never felt like he crosses the line into just diddling with beautiful words just because he can. He's also the author who has best given this overly estrogen saturated female a comprehensible glimpse into the mysteries of the male psyche. I enjoyed The Prince of Tides as a movie as long as I didn't think too hard or long about the book. The movie became a story for women. Only glimpses of the terror and agony that made this very much a man's tale showed through. The Lords of Discipline, The Great Santini, The Water is Wide, Beach Music and The Boo reek of delectably prime testosterone, and My Losing Season places that aroma right in the heart of a locker room.

What draws me to Conroy though is not just the sheer masculinity of his novels. It's the vulnerability, the secret weapon of the most dangerous men. I've fallen a little bit in love with Ben Meecham, Will McLean, Tom Wingo and Jack McCall. It would be hard not to with those manly, outdoorsy men who can cook, admit to both intentionally and inadvertently seriously hurting the women in their lives, cry and love being daddies. He's also damn good at letting people see what it's like being a white Southerner caught between what's hateful, ridiculous and glorious about our part of this American subculture.

Despite my almost but not quite silly state of Conroy fandom, I still put off reading My Losing Season until I was too sick to get up and find another book. This literal autobiography began with a confession of mediocrity and went on to tell how Conroy ended being a basketball player and how he became a writer. (I got chills at the scene where he was asked to autograph one of his books at the desk where William Faulkner had written Absalom, Absalom!) I loved reading about his growing confidence as a young man, a basketball player and writer. The simplicity he used to show the pains and joys in his life as a military brat, his reconciliation with his father and The Citadel, the reunion of his team and seeing his old coach again made me want to strip every bit of sentimentality from my writing and make it as real as I can.

I loved this book just as I expected to, but I had to be ready to be honest with myself before I could read it. That was why I delayed, and ultimately why Pat Conroy is one of my favorite writers. I cannot avoid being grimly honest about my life and my talents when I read his books, but I always come away with the knowledge that brilliance burned through and past the mediocrities in his characters and the hope that it can do the same with me.

5 Comments:

Blogger alphawoman said...

I really like Pat Conroy too. There is this movie about him teacing somewhere off the coast of S. Carolina (?) I saw it so long ago I only remember bits of it. Jon Voight played Pat as a young teacher. It is a wonderful movie and made me cry!! Wish I could remember the name. I am reading books like crazy too...must be the weather.

October 21, 2006 6:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting review. Now I have to head on out and get hold of the book!

Good job! Keep reading and writing! c",)

October 21, 2006 7:00 AM  
Blogger Gannet Girl said...

You should be writing for some book review site.

October 21, 2006 1:15 PM  
Blogger ChasingMoksha said...

I admire people who can read contemporary authors. For some reason, I just cannot do it; most of my authors need to be dead. I do love some Faulkner though. I learned recently that Faulkner worked at a post office at the campus in Oxford. I spent most of my summers between Memphis and Oxford when I was a little girl. Thanks for provoking the memory.

October 21, 2006 1:59 PM  
Blogger Nelle said...

I remember reading The Prince of Tides and buying it for several friends. It was powerful. I liked the movie but it didn't come close to the book for me.

October 22, 2006 5:42 PM  

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