More S.C. authors and literary figures talk about the influence of Pat Conroy, whose book, “My Reading Life,” is the selection for 2014 One Book, One Columbia. Look for other tributes this month in The State and thestate.com/living.
Wendell Minor, author/illustrator, “Edward Hopper Paints His World” (with Robert Burleigh, forthcoming in August)
I always call Pat the poet of prose. No one does it better. I think I’ve illustrated nearly all his covers at time or another. I did “The Great Santini.” I’ve read everything he’s written. He writes from the soul, with passion. He paints with words. He always says that my visual take on his work is right on. I say that he paints such beautiful pictures with his words that I can’t not come up with these ideas. He sees with an artist’s eyes. His descriptions of the Lowcountry are quite vivid. You feel the heat and humidity in his words.
My favorite is “The Great Santini,” because I identify with having a difficult father.
My father served in World War II and was quite the disciplinarian. It’s a strange gift when you father that demands much. Pat has done much to overcome these issues — “The Death of Santini” reprises the eulogy he gave, and it’s quite moving.
Cliff Graubart, author, “The Curious Vision of Sammy Levitt and Other Stories,” and owner, the Old New York Book Shop in Atlanta
Pat tells people in jest that before he met me I had never read a book. The truth is I hadn’t read very much fiction.
His influence on me and the business was profound and changed my life. It was his idea to honor newly published authors at my store with a champagne reception and autograph party. The idea of putting words on paper rubbed off on me, and Pat was generous to read what I wrote. I don’t think I would have published a book had it not been for his influence.
My favorite book of Pat’s is “The Lords of Discipline,” which shows his great ability to tell a story. The prologue shows his ability to write prose that reads like poetry.
Cassandra King, author, “Moonrise”
I was a young English teacher when I discovered “The Water Is Wide,” one of the most delightful and moving books I’ve ever read, period. His heartbreaking experiences with the educational system in the early days of school desegregation helped get me through difficult times.
Of course, I had no way of knowing that, years later, I would have the good fortune of meeting and eventually marrying the author of that amazing book. Nor could I have imagined how my own reading life would change as a result.
I’ve always been addicted to books, but Pat’s reading habits are astonishing. Not only does he own thousands of books, but he’s an absolutely voracious reader, with a wide range of interests. If I mention a book I like — about Hemingway’s time in Paris, for example — he will search through his collection and bring me four others on the same subject.
Picking a favorite is near impossible, but “The Prince of Tides” is vintage Conroy, with his trademark poetic imagery; unforgettable characters; page-turning plot; and of course, delicious dysfunction. It just doesn’t get any better.
One Book, One Columbia events
Book clubs at Richland Library Main Branch
Feb. 13: Getting the Boots Off – PTSD and “The Great Santini”: The struggles of the Meechams in “The Great Santini” are familiar to many current and former military families. Counselor Jennifer Miller, whose own experiences in Iraq left her suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, will speak frankly about the difficulties facing those with PTSD and their families. For adults, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 18: Jasper Nightstand Book Club: The official book club of Jasper magazine will meet to discuss “My Reading Life” in the auditorium. All adults are welcome; 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 19: Screening of “The Great Santini” at the Nickelodeon, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 25: Pat Conroy as Student and Teacher: video presentation of Conroy’s keynote address from the 2007 James Dickey Conference, and panel discussion, 5 p.m., Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library, Program Room, USC
Feb. 27: Live with Pat Conroy: Author talk and book signing at the Township Auditorium, 7 p.m.
About One Book, One Columbia
Pat Conroy’s “My Reading Life” is the 2014 selection for One Book, One Columbia, a community-wide initiative celebrating a single piece of literature during the month of February. Details: onecolumbiasc.com