ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

A writer of magnificent prose dies...R.I.P #PatConroy And a video tribute sent to me from Open Road Media.

I was so saddened to see that Pat Conroy died on March 4th, 2016 at 70 years of age. He was one of my favourite writers, and wrote my favourite book, Beach Music (1995). I re-read it at least once a year, which is the sign of a book that resonates. Each time I find something different to love. When I heard the news I was gutted that there'd be no more Conroy magnificence to adore. Selfish of me.

Image result for did pat conroy diedConroy himself said:
'Without music, life is a journey through a desert.'

So enamored am I about Beach Music that I shared it for the WEP challenge of Spectacular Settings in 2015. Any fan of Pat Conroy will know what I'm talking about. His poetic lyricism comes to the fore when he describes the settings he so loved--in Beach Music they are South Carolina and Italy. 





If I’d just opened a random page from this novel, I could have found some amazing setting to share with you. Chapter 1 begins with such a sensuous description of the Piazza Farnese in Rome you have to blink to make sure you’re not actually there, so strong is the smell of freshly-brewed coffee and so vivid the descriptions of the morning activity in the Piazza. And I’m sure South Carolina never had prettier words written to describe it. But the descriptions that never leave me are found in the Prologue. I have taken excerpts from pp. 19-23, where the teenage Jack is sky larking with a group of his graduate high-school classmates who have gathered in a condemned house on St Michael’s Island, South Carolina on the night it was predicted the house would break up and fall into the sea. This section is reminiscent of the whole novel, where Conroy, a master of setting as character, parallels the coming together of himself and his great love, Shyla, against the backdrop of the raging Atlantic Ocean. 

This of course, foreshadows one of many tragedies which are to come...

Here is an excerpt from the Prologue of Beach Music. I love Prologues when they're done this well! They capture my imagination and add suspense to the story.
"THE sea rose invisibly beneath us and the moon shone smooth and bright. A glossy flute of light, like velvet down a bridal aisle, lit the marlin scales and the backs of whales migrating a hundred miles at sea. The tides surged through the marsh and each wave that hit the beach came light-struck and broad-shouldered, with all the raw power the moon could bestow. Magically, an hour passed and we, ocean dancers and tide challengers, found ourselves listening to the sea directly beneath us as the waves began to crash in earnest against the house...
I looked around to see Shyla Fox in the moonlight. She looked as though she had dressed for this moment with the help of the moon…
We danced toward the central motion of our lives. The winds roared and a strange love rose like a tide between us and rested in the crown of waves that was loosening the frame of the house. Alone we danced beneath the full moon…
I heard the house shudder and push off as it took its first primal step towards the sea. The house tilted, then fell forward as though it were prostrating itself before the power of this tidal surge.
We went out to the newly imbalanced balcony, holding hands. The moon lit the sea in a freeway of papery light and we watched the boiling white caps feeding on the broken cement scattered beneath the house. We continued to dance while the house kept its appointment with the long tide and I blazed with the love of this young girl. 
Our love began and ended with seawater."

If you love this excerpt you can read the full Prologue here. 

“One of the greatest gifts you can get as a writer is to be born into an unhappy family,” Conroy said. And his childhood was mined mercilessly in his novels. Which is why they resonate.

Go with God, Mr Conroy. Thank you for the music.

  • Have you read any of Pat Conroy's books?
  • If you have read any of his books, what is your favourite?



34 comments:

  1. I've not read his books, but this one sounds appealing. A house that is sinking into the sea is a hook for me. . . and I wish him RIP.

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    1. I'm sure you'd love it D.G. Let me know if you give it a go.

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  2. I remember you sharing his work. That quote reminded me of Frank McCourt - he too said that an ordinary happy childhood is useless as writer's material.

    It's terribly melancholy when a favourite author passes away. RIP Mr Conroy.

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    1. I didn't have time to do another, so I used this one. It's sad about the unhappy childhood though.

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  3. Hi Denise - I've never heard of him ... but Lynn from Good Things Happened mentions him too ...

    He was young too ... sad ... but that house being drawn into the sea is imagination drawn in ...

    I'm sorry for you, but for him too early has he gone to be at peace ... cheers Hilary

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  4. I didn't know he'd died. I too was a fan of his writing and loved Beach Music. Well, he left us with some good stories.

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  5. I've never read anything by him. I do like what he said about music.

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  6. I've never read Beach Music but it sounds like one to try. I read a couple of his novels that I really loved, then tried The Great Santini but couldn't get into it at all. It's always sad when a great writer dies and the world loses the opportunity to have any more of their work.

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    1. I'm with you on The Great Santini. I missed the point. But I love most of his other novels.

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  7. YES. He is the writer for me now in my life when with my limited time I want to focus on some of the greatest prose. His definitely is!!

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    1. Nothing like it. Maybe he's not the best, but he is for me.

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  8. That description is magnificant, but I don't want to read the book if that kind of thing happens. I guess I am at an age when I want happy endings. Sorry to hear your favourite has died though. I too had never heard of him.

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    1. I get you Jo. But I like both sad and happy. Nothing like a good cry...

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  9. I've not read his books. It's always sad when someone whose work we really like dies.

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  10. Such a lovely tribute, his words are magical and now on my TBR list! I read the inside look on Amazon of the book - WOW! Brings home all I've yet to learn!

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    1. Conroy was at the top of his game. Good to aspire to. I keep trying!

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  11. A wonderful tribute, Denise. I have put Beach Music on my TBR list.

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  12. Yes, it is a beautiful tribute to a wonderful writer. Looks like I have another author to find time to read. Thanks for sharing this with your followers. I enjoyed the recent blog hop and connecting with fellow bloggers online. All the best!

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    1. I hope you read something of him Victoria! It was lovely to have you in the recent blog hop!

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  13. What a beautiful exert. Such beautiful words... And quite true what he said, about an unhappy childhood helping you to be a writer. Strife does lead to perceptions not easily recreated if they are not felt and experienced. And Thank You for popping on by, I appreciate your time and comment. I'll be by again...

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  14. I haven't read his works, but it looks like I should.

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  15. Hi Denise
    I've never read Conway and now I must. That excerpt truly was well written.

    I left a review just now for Under the Tuscan Moon. Probably won't see it for a day or two. Since Amazon is being annoying and deleting reviews that they imagine are not legitimate, I also posted it on my blog. I gave you 4 stars because it was great but there was also some head hopping between the two vamps.
    Nancy

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  17. A wonderful tribute to a great writer. Between him and Harper Lee, it has already been a rough year for Southern authors. I have a Conroy quote on my blog, from My Losing Season: "Winning is wonderful in every aspect, but the darker music of loss resonates on deeper, richer planes."

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    1. Thank you for that moving quote, AS. He loved that word, music.

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  18. Hi Denise, I attempted a Pat Conroy book years ago, but didn't get very far. In fact, I don't remember the title! Whatever it was, it just wasn't my kind of book...at least at that time. I have so many authors I still want to read, I don't know if I'll ever try Conroy again. I'm glad you enjoyed his work so much, though.

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    1. He's written so many books and I don't love them all, but I love most.

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  19. I'm so sorry to hear that one of your writing idols died. It's so sad to know nothing new will be coming from them, but reassuring to think their body of work remains and will be appreciated forever. Thanks for sharing one of your favorite sections! :)

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  20. Hi, Denise, thanks for this lovely share. I'm ashamed to say that, as much as I have heard and read of Pat Conroy, I've never read one of his books. Now I see that I must. This excerpt was a gorgeous piece of writing. I love his advice, too: "You have to finish things." I have a lot of unfinished pieces that makes me want to finish.

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  21. His prose seems quite poetic, although I haven't yet read a book by him.

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  23. You wrote a very nice and moving tribute to Pat Conroy. I have not read his books but my husband has. I have to go through all our books and give many away before we move – I won’t give Mr. Conroy’s books away now, so that I can read them later. He was much loved around here.

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