I have enjoyed several books by Pat Conroy, best known for The Great Santini. His 2010 publication, My Reading Life introduced me to him as an essayist, and a good one at that.
Actually Conroy’s book is a collection of tributes to authors and books that helped form him as an author and as a man. His brutal father, depicted in The Great Santini, and the influence of his genteel, book-loving reader of a mother are evident in many of the essays about his childhood and early-college literary leanings. As a young boy, Conroy was a voracious reader, reading far beyond his chronological age. His books were selected for him by his mother, and often they would read and then discuss the same books. This book is “an array of wonderful and often surprising anecdotes, ” covering the author’s early “love affair with the local library ” through his great success as a contemporary man of letters. The book is written for those “who believe in the power of books to shape a life” and captivates the interest and attention of anyone who loves books, libraries, authors and other things “bookish.”
From his essay, “Why I Write:”
“Good writing is the hardest form of thinking. It involves the agony of turning profoundly difficult thoughts into lucid form, then forcing them into the tight-fitting uniform of language, making them visible and clear.” I will definitely expose my Advanced Writing students to this concept in the coming semester. Conroy’s mastery of word choice and magnificent turn of phrase are transferred from his novels to his collection of essays in this small book. It is a satisfying read.