How does one eulogize a writer whose work you have adored for more than half your life? I don’t even know where to begin, and I sort of wish I’d just elected to write the second half of my post about Codex, but now I’m committed and I’ll press on. Forgive me if I am repeating myself at any point—I’m sure I will, because we spend a lot of time writing about Pat Conroy on Postcards from Purgatory, if you didn’t already know that….
The first time I heard of Pat Conroy in any concrete way was my sophomore year of high school when we read The Water is Wide in Mr. Barmore’s honors English class. Then Pat Conroy came and spoke at my high school and my class got to go and see him speak. I did not have to ditch class like some of my high school friends did. And it was so funny. So funny. My high school’s alumni magazine published a transcript of the talk, and I wish to God that I still had that issue right now. Somewhere along the line Bethany and I, our friendship still in its infancy, started talking about Pat Conroy and books, and well, twenty-four years later, here we are.
I have read every book Pat Conroy has written, with the exception of that mayonnaise-encrusted cookbook he co-wrote a few years ago, and also, shamefully, I have not read The Boo, his first book. I tried to read it maybe twenty years ago, and just couldn’t do it. It lacked Conroy’s characteristic “Conroyvianness.” Now, of course, I’m going to have to try again, probably during PAT CONROY MONTH!!!!
I am never going to be able to sum up my feelings about Pat Conroy in a brief blog post. Bethany and I have been trying to explain to the Internet for the past four years how Pat Conroy shaped our lives and our reading habits and our friendship and how we think about memory and our pasts. I don’t know that I could do any better to eulogize him than to tell everyone on earth to go into our archives and read everything we’ve written about him since we started this blog.
But here’s another idea.
Dear Pat Conroy,
You died on Friday, March 4th, 2016. You were seventy-one years old, which doesn’t seem old enough to die. But cancer is an asshole, and can do whatever the hell it wants. Let’s pretend that it’s the twenty-fourth anniversary of the time you came to speak at my high school in San Francisco, or the twenty-fourth anniversary of the first time I read one of your books. It would be poetical if it were, and I’m in the mood for poeticalness today. Bethany and I had this English teacher named Father Murphy—you’ll know about him if you’ve read our blog, and I’m sure you have, because it’s all about you—and he once said to us, during his famous graduation speech, that you need to be sure to thank the important people in your life. So, thank you from the bottom of my heart, for writing all of those amazing, overwrought, southern novels. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with your readers. Thank you for not being afraid to tell the truth about your life, over and over again. Thank you for Will McLean, for Tom Wingo, for Ben Meecham, for Bull Meecham, for Lillian Meecham, even for Susan Lowenstein and Annie Kate Gervais. I don’t remember the names of the characters in South of Broad or Beach Music because it’s been a long time since I’ve read them, and I’m sorry about that, but thank you for all of those versions of yourself and your family, and for your amazing, wonderful memoirs. I will never forget you, and I will do everything in my power as a very important book-blogger to keep your memory alive so present and future fifteen year old girls can read The Lords of Discipline and fall in love with its first words and the paragraphs that follow: “I wear the ring.”