>My Reading Life by Pat Conroy: Poetry and Inspiration

>It’s after midnight the night before I’m be driving about 450 miles from my writing “retreat” here in Seagrove Beach, Florida, to Oxford, Mississippi, where I’ll be co-directing the 2010 Creative Nonfiction Conference, which starts on Thursday! I’m pretty much packed for my 7 a.m. departure (I’ll be stopping in Jackson to visit my mom at the nursing home) and should go to bed, but I don’t want to leave my blog unattended for five days.

A Facebook friend who has been reading my comments about Pat Conroy’s latest book, My Reading Life, asked if I was going to review it on my blog. If I had more time, I might try to do it justice, but I know I would fail miserably. It’s just too beautiful for me to mess with.

I’ve been reading it during breaks from drafting the novel I came to the beach to write, and nothing could be more inspirational. Except that I sometimes get depressed reading Pat’s work because I know I can never write like that. It’s like poetry, but it’s prose. The Prince of Tides is my favorite book of all time, and I think everything Pat Conroy has written is fabulous. (I reviewed his book, South of Broad, last September.) But somehow I didn’t expect him to bring his huge gift of literary prose to a book about reading. But, how could he do less?

You can read reviews many places, so I’ll just leave you with a few of my favorite quotes and then tell you to go out and buy the book and read it. Now. Especially if you’re a writer, but even if you just love the beauty of the written word. A few “tastes” of his nectar:

On the special relationship that writers have with each other:

“Because we were strangers who would know one another on this planet for a very short time we could trade those essential secrets of our lives that defined us in absolute terms. Voyagers can remove the masks and those sinuous intricate disguises we wear at home in the dangerous equilibrium of our common lives.”

On the influence that our upbringing has on our writing:

“All writers are both devotees and prisoners of their childhoods, and the images that accrued during those early days when each of us played out the mystery of Adam and Eve in our own way. My mother’s voice and my father’s fist are the two book-ends of my childhood, and they form the basis of my art.”

On what he wants when he reads a book:

“Here is what I want from a book, what I demand, what I pray for when I take up a novel and begin to read the first sentence: I want everything and nothing less, the full measure of a writer’s heart. I want a novel so poetic that I do not have to turn to the standby anthologies of poetry to satisfy that itch for music, for perfection and economy of tone. Then, too, I want a book so filled with story and character that I read page after page without thinking of food and drink, because a writer has possessed me, crazed me with an unappeasable thirst to know what happens next.”

And finally:

“I write a poem in hopes that my name will lie fresh on the tongues of language lovers a hundred years from now; I write a novel in case a poem is not enough.”


  • Carol Marks

    November 10, 2010
  • Emma Connolly

    November 11, 2010

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