Saturday, January 8, 2011
Pat Conroy's New Book--A Great Read
The book traces his love affair with books. It all began when his Mother, who did not have a chance to go to college, was a reader. When he was five years old his mother began to read Gone With the Wind, of all things, to him. He said early he learned of the power and authority of fiction from those early readings.
Conroy was a voracious reader but this volume is much than a-books-that-I –have-read-list. He writes about the people along the way that took the time to listen to him, to encourage him and put books in his hands. There was an English teacher, Mr. Norris who opened up a whole new world to this high school student. He took Conroy under his wing and took him to fine restaurants, taught him what forks, spoons and knives went where and how you should eat. He introduced him to Archibald Rutledge, the poet laureate of South Carolina. In 1994 when Conroy was to address the Booksellers Convention he flew Mr. Norris out to the convention first class. And when Conroy spoke he saluted his old teacher. This story might trigger something in your own imagination as it did mine. I remember some teachers in my own life that took the time to listen, that open the windows and introduced me to a world I had never known. One wonders where we would be with those who stopped and listened and cared.
This book takes us through much of Conroy’s life and how books played such a part at every junction of his journey. He writes beautifully about libraries and bookshops and people along the way. Thomas Wolfe influenced him greatly as did James Dickey and a great host of others. I had a friend that used to say there were God-guided books that came into our lives at just the right time. I’ve thought about that sentence a lot through the years because like Conroy and so many others I have found life taking a different direction because of a book that fell into my lap when I needed it most.
One of the last chapters is this moving book is entitled, “Why I write.” Conroy says that he writes to explain his life to himself. Who was it, Kafka maybe that said that a good book is an axe that chops away the frozen sea within us. Conroy says he wrote because he loved the sound of words that he first began to learn from his Mother with her gorgeous Southern accent. Early on Conroy writes that he set for himself the endless task of reading and incorporating books of great vision.
Mr. Norris, Pat Conroy’s English teacher lay dying in a Columbia (SC) hospital. The last thing he ever said to the student he was most proud of was: “Tell me a story.” Mr. Norris would have loved this book. It tells a story which takes the reader down his or her own memory lane where we just might remember our own stories, places and faces that have changed our lives. Read this good book and see for yourself.