MY READING LIFE – “Prince of Books”

April 3, 2011


Pat Conroy

Doubleday, 2010

340 pages, $25 

Pat Conroy.

Remember The Prince of Tides and the wonderful Barbara Streisand film of it. Even if you don’t this is a book that will get you thinking…about people and books that have shaped your life.

     There’s Conroy’s mother who made his education her own. His abusive father and a high school mentor, Gene Norris, whose life , dedication and death will stay with you, even if you were not fortunate enough to have such a wonderful teacher when you were in high school.  I was less taken with the Gone with the Wind, Dickens and Thomas Wolfe chapters, if only because I would have substituted literary heroes of my own.

     But every writer (published or not) can relate to the writer’s conference and class from James Dickey. In addition I was particularly moved by the Gene Norris defense of Catcher in the Rye before an angry school board, The Old New York Bookstore where Conroy worked,  the chapter entitled “Why I Write”:, and the heartbreak of his remembrances of being raised in the military:

Because of the military life, I’m a stranger everywhere and a stranger nowhere. I can engage anone in a conversation, become well liked in a matter of seconds, yet there is a distance I can never recover, a slight shiver of alienation of not belonging, and an eye on the nearest door.  …When Mary Edwards Wertsch writes of military brats offering emotional blank checks to everyone in the world, she’s writing the first line in my biography. 

Yet the most heartbreaking thing about this book isn’t even in it. It is Pat Conroy”s dedication to the book: “This book is dedicated to my lost daughter, Susanah Ansley Cnoroy. Know this: I love you with my heart and always will. Your return to my life would be one of the happiest moments I could imagine.”

Whatever this means I hope that is how his biography happily ends.


 Order directly from amazon for $14.70 My Reading Life


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