Judith D Collins
A LowCountry Heart
Reflections on a Writing Life
By: Pat Conroy
Publication Date: 10/25/2016
My Rating: 4 Stars A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life by Pat Conroy is a new nonfiction collection of letters, interviews, and magazine articles spanning Conroy's long literary career, supplemented by touching pieces from the beloved author's many friends. A Lowcountry Heart collects some of Conroy's most charming pieces of short nonfiction, many of them addressed directly to his readers with his habitual greeting, “Hey, Out There.” Ranging across diverse subjects such as favorite recent reads, the challenge of getting motivated to exercise, and processing the loss of dearly missed friends, Conroy's lighthearted and eminently memorable pieces offer a unique window into the life of a true titan of Southern writing.
In addition, A Lowcountry Heart also includes some of Conroy's most beloved speeches and interviews, a touching letter to his grandson, and a beautiful introduction from his widow, the novelist Cassandra King. Finally, the collection turns to remembrances of The Great Conroy, as he is lovingly titled by friends, including his eulogy. This moving tribute is sure to be a cherished keepsake for any true Conroy fan, and a lasting monument to one of the best-loved writers of contemporary American letters.
A special thank you to Doubleday and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life, a collection of non-fiction writings by the beloved Southern author, we all loved, Pat Conroy, as well as special remembrances from his friends. Throughout A LOWCOUNTRY HEART, the indisputable power of Conroy’s work resonates, and his influence promises to endure. A sharing of stories. A moving tribute and a cherished keepsake for Conroy fans. To one of the best-loved writers of contemporary American letters. “A man who loved the written work beyond all measure, and who believed that each of us has at least one great story to tell.” From Conroy’s famous “hey, out there,” his first letter ever written for his website, his hated word “blog”, his special friends, and his love of the LowCountry—Charleston. From his special journals, letters, interviews, and essays, to his oldest friend, Bernie Schein's farewell letter to the beautiful introduction and acknowledgments by his beloved wife and writer, Cassandra King Conroy. Even includes a Conversation with Pat Conroy, from Beaufort Lifestyles, Oct 2015. A touching collection of moments and treasures from the man we all admired. From an intimate letter to his grandson about sportsmanship and basketball, Citadel, Andie MacDowell, Beaufort, his books, his writing life, teachers, Vietnam, Charlie Gibson of Good Morning America, Paris Days, A Eulogy for a Southern Gentleman, South of Broad, Penn Center, one of the first schools for freed slaves, (his final resting place-Memorial Garden), birthdays, travels, teachers, his first book, sermons and speeches, plus many more special tidbits from an extraordinary man.
Each fan will have special fond memories of different segments of the memoir. I particularly enjoyed how he met Cassandra King , later in life, where they found in their fifties and sixties, a time of joy, productivity, and contentment. Their shared love of books, writing, and life. Their first meeting at a writer’s conference in Birmingham, Alabama. She fell upon his spell. Their twenty years together. People were Starstruck by him and his presence. “Pat could make the deaf hear and the mute speak. Sweeping you up in a conversation with those intense blue eyes focused like lasers on you and you alone, he had the ability to ferret out your secret self that had been undercover for a lifetime. “ From his musings, critiques, observations, and meditations, his journals, and stories. How a hearing a good story filled him with great excitement. His love of book signings. Stories were a way Pat connected with readers. It was amusing to read about his resisting modern technology, emails, blogs, tweets, and twitters. However, most of the works in this collection come from the "blog" he began to write when he was between books; when his health began to fail since he was limited to travel. These were called blog posts or letters. He never learned to type. It was the way he collected the stories he would turn into the books his readers yearned for. He would take your story and make it large and glorious and unforgettable. From his great love of books, his first, The Boo, plus some of his favorite authors and friends, John Grisham, John Irving, Richard Russo, Anne Rivers Siddons, Ron Rash, Fannie Flagg, and more– books that inspired him, and his family. Being a native Carolinian, enjoyed revisiting special places like the Highlands, NC, Atlanta, GA, Charleston and Beaufort, SC, among others. Pat was a great man, a talented author, possessing a rare gift, which is missed tremendously. A beautiful collection, a treasure, and tribute to his work and his life. His love of the South, food, friends, family, and mostly words and stories. "Our own prince of tides."
About the Author
Pat Conroy, born in Atlanta in 1945, was the first of seven children of a young career military officer from Chicago and a Southern beauty from Alabama, to whom Pat often credits for his love of language. The Conroys moved frequently to military bases throughout the South, with Conroy eventually attending The Citadel Military Academy in Charleston, South Carolina, where, as a student, he published his first book, The Boo, a tribute to a beloved teacher. Following graduation, Conroy taught English in Beaufort, where he met and married a young mother of two children who had been widowed during the Vietnam War.
He soon took a job teaching underprivileged children in a one-room schoolhouse on Daufuskie Island off the South Carolina shore but, after a year, was fired for his unconventional teaching practices – such as his refusal to allow corporal punishment of his students – and for his personal differences with the school's administration. Conroy was never to teach again but he evened the score by exposing the racism and appalling conditions his students endured with the publication of a memoir, The Water is Wide published in 1972. The book won Conroy a humanitarian award from the National Education Association and was made into the feature film Conrack.
Following the birth of a daughter, the Conroys moved to Atlanta, where Pat wrote his novel, The Great Santini, published in 1976, and later made into a film starring Robert Duvall, that explored the conflicts of the author's childhood, particularly his ambivalent love for his violent and abusive father. The publication of a book that so painfully exposed his family's secret brought Conroy a period of tremendous personal desolation. This crisis resulted not only in his divorce, but the divorce of his parents; his mother presented a copy of The Great Santini to the judge as "evidence" in divorce proceedings against his father.
The Citadel became the subject of his next novel, The Lords of Discipline, published in 1980. The novel exposed the school's harsh military discipline and racism.
Conroy remarried and moved from Atlanta to Rome, where he began The Prince of Tides, which, when published in 1986, became his most successful book. Reviewers immediately acknowledged Conroy as a master storyteller and a poetic and gifted prose stylist. This novel has become one of the most beloved novels of modern time. With over five million copies in print, it has earned Conroy an international reputation. The Prince of Tides was later made into a highly successful feature film directed by and starring Barbra Streisand, as well as actor Nick Nolte, whose performance won him an Oscar nomination. Beach Music (1995), Conroy's sixth book, was the story of Jack McCall, an American who moves to Rome to escape the trauma and painful memory of his young wife's suicidal leap off a bridge in South Carolina. While he was on tour for Beach Music, members of his Citadel basketball team began appearing, one by one, at his book signings around the country, Conroy realized that his team members had come back into his life just when he needed them most. He began reconstructing his senior year, his last year as an athlete, and the 21 basketball games that changed his life. The result of these recollections, along with his insights into his early aspirations as a writer, became My Losing Season.
Pat Conroy left this world Friday March 4, 2016 at 7:42 pm surrounded by his family and friends in his Beaufort home overlooking the marshes he so loved. Read More