Saturday, March 5, 2016

Pat Conroy and My Own Reading Life

The passing of Pat Conroy is yet another loss in my reading life.  He touched a lyrical nerve in that life, and the magnetism of his dysfunctional family years brought me into his writings.  Although a southerner, he was a kindred spirit.  Even his college basketball days chronicled in his My Losing Season resonated on a personal basis. He was a point guard in college, one of my dreams when I was much younger, although unrealized.

He died of pancreatic cancer.  The worst kind I can think of, my own father having wasted away from the same. And now a dear friend of mine, after successful Whipple surgery five years ago, fighting the unrelenting return of that dreaded disease.

One by one, the writers I grew up with, Richard Yates, John Cheever, John Updike, and now Pat Conroy, passing.  There are other writers taking their place.  Literature is alive and well even in this 140 character world, thanks to luminaries such as Conroy.

In his very personal memoir, My Reading Life, the dedication cried out for being reunited with his estranged daughter: This book is dedicated to my lost daughter, Susannah Ansley Conroy.  Know this. I love you with my heart and always will.  Your return to my life would be one of the happiest moments I could imagine.

My entry on that book, written soon after I emerged from the hospital following complicated open heart surgery, also noted that dedication and expressed my hope that it might lead to reconciliation.  I wonder whether it happened, as much for her sake as her father’s.

Goodbye Pat Conroy.  You brought beautiful fiction into my world, a Phoenix rising from the ashes of a sorrowful childhood.