I know you might find this hard to believe, but sometimes I spend time doing absolutely nothing except diddling around on the internet. And a couple of days ago, when I was engaged in this particular activity, I happened to learn that Friday, September 21 has been declared PAT CONROY DAY in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Let’s just put aside for a moment the fact that this is really weird. Never mind that.
With all due respect to Tulsa, Jill and I discussed the matter and we decided that to limit Pat Conroy to a day is an insult to his fine (and long) novels. So we have decided that September of 2012 will now be known as PAT CONROY MONTH! here on Postcards from Purgatory.
It’s sort of like Shark Week – except that it lasts a month and there are no commercials. And there won’t be any sharks, except for that one part in Beach Music where all the major characters get lost at sea in a little tiny boat for about a week and almost die and have to be rescued by a deer – I think they at least talk about sharks in that scene.
In our AP English challenge, Jill and I are re-reading (or in some embarrassing cases, reading for the first time) the books that were assigned to us when we were seniors in high school. Now with PAT CONROY MONTH! we will spend some time rereading and writing about the books that we were reading when we SHOULD have been reading Lord Jim and Crime and Punishment and Paradise Lost back in 1993 and 1994. Because we LOVED Pat Conroy back in high school. I discovered his novels when I was a sophomore in high school and immediately started to write like him. It took some hard-drinkin’, hard-livin’, hard-swearin’ grad school professors to kick the habit out of me about ten years later, and I have since toned down my style a bit. And even though I learned that in some circles it is best to keep this allegiance a secret, I still love Pat Conroy. I’ll be the first to admit that his latest novel, South of Broad, was not very good, but I still read it immediately after it was released it and loved it the way you love a parent who’s gone senile – if anything, with more tenderness than before in deference to its vulnerability and faded promise.
While Conroy’s novels (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline, The Prince of Tides, Beach Music, and South of Broad) are quite well known, his three works of autobiographical nonfiction are slightly (but only slightly) less so – and they’re good too. I was actually very pleasantly surprised by My Reading Life, which was published in 2010, and The Water is Wide is an old favorite. My Losing Season was released during the year that I coached high school sports for the first time and discovered – to my astonishment – that I loved it and was even sometimes good at it.
We are not entirely sure exactly what PAT CONROY MONTH! will entail, but we know that at the very least we will each reread at least one of Conroy’s novels and write about it. I also plan to read and write about at least a couple of the books that Conroy identifies in My Reading Life as his influences. If I’m feeling especially masochistic, I might post a few samples of the prose I wrote in my late high school and early college years that bears the distinct imprint of Conroy’s influence. And if I really have a lot of time on my hands, I may pick up a copy of the cookbook Conroy authored a decade or so ago and cook up something with shrimp in it to eat while I read about tormented families and basketball.
Reader participation is encouraged. Please consider reading or re-reading some Pat Conroy along with us, or comment on our posts and tell us why you love Conroy’s work – or why you hate it. Jill works with cats and until recently I worked with adolescents, so we are both pretty good at handling rejection. And if anyone lives in the Tulsa area or will be there on September 21 and wants to attend the Pat Conroy event and live-blog it for us, we would be in your debt for a very, very long time. Seriously.