A little gem has come out recently into our bookstores, Pat Conroy’s “My Reading Life”. For those who are not so familiar with the author you may have read or seen “The Prince of Tides” or “The Lords of Discipline”. The truth is that Pat Conroy’s masterful skill for storytelling has been delighting some of us for many years. So it comes has no surprise that the writer is an avid reader himself and has chosen to share his love of books and the English language with the wider public. As I opened the first few pages of “My Reading Life” it felt very much like sitting down with an old friend and indulging into some secrets of his soul.
Themes such as his Catholic childhood, his relationship with his parents and being brought up on the ever-changing military bases, pervade throughout the entire book. We have much to thank Peg Conroy for instilling her son’s love affair with books. Indeed much of his past is mirrored in Pat Conroy’s writing and there are clear reflections of this in his choices of books as well as in the friendships he forms throughout his reading and writing life.
How easy did I find to follow the steps of Conroy into the “Old New York Bookshop” and revel in what it might have been like to have lived during those literary soirees, or how I wished I could have been part of the influential Gene Norris’ s English class in 1961. It seems only too few of us are lucky enough to have had an educator which can both inspire you and challenge you.
He describes the greats such as Dickens and Tolstoy and other master novelists but his passion shines through when he writes about his emotional connections to the likes of Thomas Wolfe and James Dickey. Writers who have utterly consumed his soul with their art to the point it has changed both the teenage Conroy and the more mature one.
Another chapter, which I found particularly enlightening and honest, was “On being a military brat”. He describes his father’s history of domestic violence, the mask with which the family had to grin and bear and the ultimate pride on being raised “ a military brat” and serving the army.
Upon reading this book I could not help myself taking notes, particularly on writers I had dismissed in the past or simply not heard of. His passion for reading translates in each sentence. And what else could an author ask for, but to have others hold them in such great respect as to trust them to guide their way.
I salute you, Mr. Pat Conroy.