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My Reading Life by Pat Conroy
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's review
Oct 12, 11

bookshelves: books-about-books, childhood, fathers-and-sons, literary-memoir, memoir, mothers-and-children, non-fiction
Read from October 04 to 12, 2011 — I own a copy

If you enjoy the books of Pat Conroy, you will enjoy this book. If you don't, you won't.

My first introduction to Pat Conroy was through the movie "Conrack," starring Jon Voight. I had never heard of Conroy, much less read him. However, the movie sent me in search of him. When I found the paperback movie tie-in, I was hooked.

From that time forward, I have read Conroy's books. I have met him, spoken with him, and seen him several times on the book circuit. His voice is a familiar sound to me, and when I here it, I can recognize it, before I see the face from whence the words flow. So when I pick up a new Conroy now, or return to one I have read, Pat Conroy's voice whispers to me as my eyes flicker over the words on the page. It is a most pleasant reading experience.

This book is not so much about the books which have influenced Conroy's life, but about the people in Conroy's life who introduced those books to him. It is surprising to see the venomous statements of some who have reviewed this literary memoir who proclaim that Conroy is a racist because he glorified the South of "Gone With the Wind." How sad. Those readers seem to have just skipped over the whole point that the chapter concerning that novel is a prose poem in homage to Conroy's mother who fired his imagination by instilling him with the love of books and reading them.

"My Reading Life" has its high points and its lows. The finest sections are those relating to Conroy's family, his English teacher Gene Norris, the owner of the Old New York Bookstore in Atlanta, and his first book rep who pushed countless "essential" novels into Conroy's hands, all the while telling him he would never be a great writer.

Here you will find Conroy's dry humor when relating his experiences of meeting Alice Walker, being thrown out of an Adrienne Rich poetry workshop for being male, and being an American in Paris while writing "The Lords of Discipline."

Here you will find Donald Conroy, "The Great Santini," who still holds a swaggering control of Pat Conroy's life, whether he will admit it or not. Conroy would have the reader believe that his soul is at rest with his father's ghost. However, this haunted relationship appears to pervade all the works of Pat Conroy.

The low points of Conroy's memoir are, for this reader, those sections dealing with an author or book for which there is no living connection with Conroy, a book which was not put into his hands by a person influential in his life. The section on "War and Peace" felt forced, that Conroy felt he could not address the issuer of reading without including what some consider the greatest novel ever written. Conroy himself says he would prefer Anna Karenina. Well, Mr. Conroy, why didn't you write about that instead?

The final chapters of "My Reading Life" seem the be the target of the reading public. Even I, a staunch devotee of Conroy's works, found myself thinking, "My, he doesn't know how to end this." So, perhaps the few final chapters detract from what is good in this book. One goodreads friend remarked, "It just petered out." I would love to see the look on Conroy's face if this lady were to say that to him. After all, this is the American in Paris approached by circles of confident ladies of the night, calling him "Beeg Boy." This is the man befriended by a free spirited poet who relished in revealing her sexual experiences with her many lovers. Conroy remarked, to the effect, "Gee,I'm glad we never ended up in the sack. I would hate to see I had been revealed to have chipmunk sized genitalia."

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