Why I’m nominating Pat Conroy as my president
“If you’re available, life gets huge.”—Bill Murray
It has been about a year since the author Pat Conroy left the planet. I was out of the country at the time of his death and didn’t hear the news for several months. I was surprised it took that long in light of the fact my sister, Becki, and I discuss this titan of Southern literature the way teenage girls once discussed Justin Bieber.
Yesterday, I finished reading a collection of his blog posts, speeches, fiery editorials and even letters to his grandkids. It was put together by his wife, Cassandra King, and his editor, Nan Talese.
Called A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life, the book re-energized my love affair with Pat, with writing and with recognizing beauty where it’s at.
Here are my four favorite reasons that his love molecules will always live in my heart.
1. Pat Conroy’s 11 books, of course, are the obvious reason. His eloquent words in Prince of Tides, Beach Music, The Great Santini and all the rest, introduced us to magic and to a sense of place and to humanity at it weakest and at its best.
2. He was a southern white boy who carried on his own personal Civil Rights battle, even losing a teaching job because of his bull-headed belief in equality. He said when Barack Obama was elected, it was one of the happiest days of his life. In a 2010 speech at the Penn Center, an African-American cultural and education center near Frogmore, South Carolina, “Yes, I was fired, humiliated, and run out of town because I believed what Martin Luther King believed. Yes. They got me good, but on this joyous night, let me brag to you at last: Didn’t I get those sorry sons of bitches back?”
3. He loved with an energy so powerful it juxtapositioned everything. His book signings were joyous love fests. His dinner parties were wild, fun and raucous. He loved books, authors, independent bookstores. He loved his family, even in all its crazy incarnations. He was generous and loyal, some would argue to fault.
4. And lastly, one night he was having dinner at Elaine’s in New York with Joan Didion and her husband John Gregory Dunne. He stumbled into the bathroom and found himself at the urinal, peeing next to the gilded tough guy Mr. T. Without missing a beat, he said, “Mine’s bigger.” Mr. T busted out laughing and Conroy, of course, added one more friend to his repertoire.
One person. One moment at a time. That’s how we do it!
Pam Grout is the author of 18 books including E-Squared: 9 Do-it-Yourself Energy Experiments that Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality and the recently released, Thank and Grow Rich: a 30-day Experiment in Shameless Gratitude and Unabashed Joy.