Oct 24, 09
Read in October, 2009
The Prince of Tides will always be my favorite book, and I have loved many others written by the great Pat Conroy, but....
It hurts my heart to say this. South of Broad is the work of a man who has lost his mojo. It is a book that most likely only got into print because editors deferred to what was once genius, perhaps even assumed that the work would somehow be fine because so much of Conroy's past work is undeniably brilliant.
Where do I begin?
The plot? What plot? Disjointed rambling thoughts I see, but plot? No.
The characters are despicable. There may have been one or two likable folks in the entire book. Certainly none of the main characters were likable. Despite horrible backstories--who was NOT raped constantly through childhood in this book??--no one was even remotely likable except Trevor, and I even had issues with Trevor.
The protagonist likes himself too damned much. Even when he leaves the lauding of his wondrous deeds to others, there is never a hint at self-deprecation. Leo likes himself way more than I ever did.
How are these people friends? Even when we finally get around to the back story of how they bonded that championship year (and please, God, I couldn't have stood another paragraph of football), these were not friends who triumphed over evil together or who loved through everything... these were assholes. Racist, self-absorbed, assholes.
The dialogue made me laugh out loud, and not because it was funny. It was just bad. People don't talk that way. Not even in South Carolina. Besides being boring, tedious and out of touch, the dialogue ended up very often serving as Conroy's vehicle of condescension. When he has to use banter to remind us that the characters are brother and sister after we've known them for four hundred pages, something is seriously wrong.
Add to that references to used kotex and "negresses", or throw in quips like, "He's not my cup of semen" and you really wonder why in the hell you bothered to finish the book at all.
Catholic funerals don't happen this way, sorry. That aging group could never have pulled off the rescue of Trevor. You don't unveil a villain in the last five pages who has never been suspect in the entire rest of the book. You don't talk about this evil mother when she's never done much of anything wrong. Your heroes can't be crazy unless they are also magnificent--and these were not.
Anger and bitterness ooze from these pages. Charlestonians are NOT that racist, not even in the company of their nearest and dearest. Friends do not hurl hateful epithets at one another like this and survive and do it all over again the next time. No one jokes to someone calling to check on his family after a disaster of epic proportions, "They're all dead."
This book is a practice in inappropriateness.
I wanted to make excuses for Pat Conroy. I have referred to him as my favorite author for a very long time. But there is no excuse. I only rated this book two stars because I didn't vomit.
It is time to put down the pen, PC, at least until you find your sense of humor again. Maybe your lovely prose and your ability to understand the human heart will be in the same place. Wouldn't that be a wonderful day?