Tuesday, March 8, 2016

What Episode It?

Well hello, Readers.  I hope you’re chugging along swimmingly today.  I have to confess to those of you expecting my usual side-splitting recap of the Women Tell All Episode that I didn’t watch the show.  As in season’s past, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  No amount of Lone Star is capable of easing my discomfort as I sit and watch that parade of pathetic prognostication and pettiness.  

Granted, it would have been nice to see Olivia attempt to rationalize the irrational or to see Caila transparently deny sleeping with Ben; however, I opted for getting down some of the thoughts in my own head instead of “investing” two hours into The Bachelor this week.  I hope you all caucused or voted in your respective primaries.   

Humor me if you wish.  If not, I’ll try and hit it out of the park next week when we get to the big finale.  My money is still on Lauren B.   Then again, I bet on Carolina to win the Superbowl. 

I woke up a few days ago and began my usual routine of rolling over, turning the alarm off on my iPhone, and hitting the icon on my favorite news app in order to catch up on the events between midnight and seven AM before getting in the shower and getting ready for work.  

We can compare and contrast the pros and cons of the 24 hour news cycle, but I will say that it’s nice to have something new to read every time I look at my phone.  The following headline caught my attention.  

Pat Conroy, Author of ‘The Prince of Tides’ and ‘The Great Santini,’ Dies at 70

It’s difficult to say exactly what I felt when I read that. I suppose those of you old enough to remember the Kennedy assassination, for instance, have an idea what I’m about to say.  I remember seeing hundreds of people on television crying in Central Park the day John Lennon was shot in 1980 and the same scene 24 years later when Kurt Cobain shot himself after injecting a speedball of cocaine and heroin into his arm.  I remember my aunt being inconsolable for days after she heard that Mickey Mantle died in 1995.  While I sympathized with those people at the time, I did not empathize.   

We all have things or people in our lives who profoundly affect who we are and how we approach the world in front of us, yet they hardly cross our minds.  We all have people in our lives who influence the way we think, act, love, hate, feel, and view the world without us being actively aware that they are doing it.  

They seep in to our souls and remain there like water in soil feeding us at our roots without us appreciating what they add to our existence.  Entertainers, artists, celebrities, musicians, and other seemingly subconsciously omnipresent people top this list because we don’t know them like we do our families or close friends.  It is not until we get news that one of them has been taken away that we realize the void their absence brings in our own lives. 

Pat Conroy, as the headline says above, wrote The Prince of Tides.  A friend of mine gave me a copy of that book for my birthday at a time in my life when I was at a crossroads emotionally, professionally, and every other “-tionally” I’m failing to recall here.  

I’d spent the better part of the three years prior to that writing my own story for no one to see but the ceiling fan and me trying to reassemble my own life and to make sense of all of the scrambled puzzle pieces of my life and why it was where it was.  What I was left with was 400 single-spaced typewritten pages in need of a cogent theme and an editor.  It was depressing stuff, but cathartic nonetheless.  

How cathartic?  Around the same time, I began a much lighter publication called Think-It, which I publish(ed) under the pseudonym Some Guy in Austin.

I subsequently read all of Pat Conroy's books.  

Pat Conroy once wrote, “Writing is the only way I have to explain my own life to myself.”  I suppose that’s true for me too. 

I love his writing.  His words seem to be his thoughts effortlessly thrown onto the page in perfect order rather than chiseled and polished sculptures gleaned from hours of assembling notes scribbled on scraps of disheveled spiral pages ripped hastily from notebooks.  He writes as if he is speaking to himself because he was, in fact, speaking to himself.  There is no pretense, no hidden message, no paternalistic ulterior motive, and no reticence.  He is about as honest as a writer can ever be. 

He was a man of contradictions painfully aware of the love/hate relationship he had with every formative thing in his life.  His father, mother, family, Roman Catholicism, sports, and women, were all things that he loved greatly, yet he was acutely aware of how all of them immeasurably wrecked and scarred him throughout his life, save his beloved South Carolina, the state he considered more than home.   

He was a masculine man.  Athletic and hardened by a military father who brutally beat him—mentally and physically--well into his own adulthood, yet he was inexplicably in touch with his own feminine side and embraced it without apology.  He understood that his own difficulty with women stemmed from a distant and unforgiving mother while simultaneously believing her to be the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

His writing artfully captured (and admitted) the contradictions of "self" that most of us attempt (unsuccessfully) to reconcile throughout our adulthood rather than admitting that they cannot be "fixed," rather only managed.  

Pat Conroy wrote the following books:    

            1970: The Boo
            1972: The Water Is Wide
            1975: A False Spring
            1976: The Great Santini
            1980: The Lords of Discipline
            1986: The Prince of Tides
            1995: Beach Music
            1999: The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of My Life
            2002: My Losing Season
            2009: South of Broad
            2010: My Reading Life
            2013: The Death of Santini       

During college I earned my tuition (and the rest of my living) waiting tables, bartending, and working in the pool grill and in golf shacks.  My studying was often done in 15 minute power reading sessions with a paperback book in one hand and a highlighter in the other so I could go back later (usually in the middle of the night) and see what I had found important during my shift.  From undergrad, through law school, and into the present day, I never read anything without a pen or a highlighter in hand. 

As a result, every book on my shelf is stained with the bright yellow or pink highlights I choose to put over phrases, paragraphs, or passages in books that catch my attention.  I highlight funny things, sad things, pretty language, or anything I find interesting.  Upon hearing about Pat Conroy’s death, I went through some of my highlights in my favorite books of his.  I’ve pasted the shorter passages below in the interest of brevity and recognition of the fact that putting in the long ones for you to read is an exercise in presumption and narcism on my part.  Perhaps these will interest you to find longer passages of your own. 

Pat Conroy was not a great man.  Far from it.  He was immeasurably scarred by his childhood, his parents, and his own faults were manifestations of the most horrible aspects of those scars.  He articulated his pain, fear, confusion, and weaknesses in a way that most writers—especially male writers—have no capacity to capture.   I believe that why his readers identified with him.  He was human and he wrote about what it meant to be human.  He was not a great man.  But he was a great writer.

Rest in Peace, Pat.

Thanks for humoring me.  Enjoy the quotes and we’ll talk Bachelor next week.  DP


“My wound is geography. It is also my anchorage, my port of call.”
 The Prince of Tides

“American men are allotted just as many tears as American women. But because we are forbidden to shed them, we die long before women do, with our hearts exploding or our blood pressure rising or our livers eaten away by alcohol because that lake of grief inside us has no outlet. We, men, die because our faces were not watered enough.”
 Beach Music

“A story untold could be the one that kills you.”
Pat Conroy

“I do not have any other way of saying it. I think it happens but once and only to the very young when it feels like your skin could ignite at the mere touch of another person. You get to love like that but once.”
 Beach Music

“Fantasy is one of the soul's brighter porcelains.”
 Beach Music

“There is such a thing as too much beauty in a woman and it is often a burden as crippling as homeliness and far more dangerous. It takes much luck and integrity to survive the gift of perfect beauty, and its impermanence is its most cunning betrayal.”
 The Prince of Tides

“Anyone who knows me well must understand and be sympathetic to my genuine need to be my own greatest hero. It is not a flaw of character; it is a catastrophe.”
 The Lords of Discipline

“There is no teacher more discriminating or transforming than loss.”
 My Losing Season: A Memoir

“When men talk about the agony of being men, they can never quite get away from the recurrent theme of self-pity. And when women talk about being women, they can never quite get away from the recurrent theme of blaming men.”
 The Prince of Tides

“In family matters you can get over anything. That's one thing you'll learn as an adult. There's a lot you have to learn which is a lot worse than that. You'd never think of forgiving a friend for some of the things your parents did to you. But with friends it's different. Friends aren't the roll of the dice.”
 South of Broad

“I lived with the terrible knowledge that one day I would be an old man still waiting for my real life to start. Already, I pitied that old man.”
 The Prince of Tides

“One can learn anything, anything at all, I thought, if provided by a gifted and passionate teacher.”
 Beach Music

“You do not learn how to write novels in a writing program. You learn how by leading an interesting life. Open yourself up to all experience. Let life pour through you the way light pours through leaves.”
 My Losing Season: A Memoir

“Hurt is a great teacher, maybe the greatest of all.”
 My Reading Life

“Always believe in things and people that bring you pleasure. What good does it do to throw those things out the window?”
 The Great Santini

“Love has no weapons; it has no fists. Love does not bruise, nor does it draw blood.”
 The Prince of Tides

“If your parents disapprove of you and are cunning with their disapproval, there will never come a new dawn when you can become convinced of your own value. There is no fixing a damaged childhood.”
 The Prince of Tides

AND FINALLY . . .

“The most powerful words in English are, "Tell me a story.”
 My Reading Life

 
Pat Conroy 1946-2016





32 comments:

  1. Great post, nice to be reminded of some stories I haven't read in a long time.
    As a military brat, my favorite quote of his is:
    "We spent our entire childhoods in the service of our country, and no one even knew we were there.", from the documentary Brats: Our Journey Home.

    Ann in Denver

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  2. I am downloading Beach Music as I type. Thanks for the unexpected, but much appreciated, recap this week. XO to you and Mrs. SGIA.

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  3. I watched Women Tell All and you didn't miss a thing. Thanks so much for the Pat Conroy column. My now deceased brother introduced me to The Great Santini and I was hooked. Lots of memories.

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    1. Painful yet beautiful book. Hope you read death of santini. It answers a lot of the remaining questions.

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  4. I agree that you missed nothing by not watching the women tell all.
    Very nice string of quotes from some great books
    Sal in Utah

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  5. Beach Music saved my life.

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    1. Indeed. I'm certain his books touched a lot of people. Thanks for the comment.

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  6. I watched The Women Tell All and am glad you chose not to recap it. I enjoyed your post on Pat Conroy far more than I would have enjoyed a recap of the show. Thank you for the thought-provoking post. (But I'm still looking forward to your recap of The Bachelor Finale next week.)

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    1. Michele, You're welcome. I'm looking forward to writing it. DP

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  7. Your post was a gift. I would love to read many more posts like this in the off season (or dare I suggest during the Bach/ette seasons INSTEAD of recaps...).
    ChrisP

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    1. ChrisP, Wow, a gift. Thank you. As yo can see from the comments below, I still need to recap. DP

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  8. I'm bummed too. You will always have Conroys' books, but we will never read your thoughts on Episode 9.

    (Women Tell All; Blah, blah, blah.)

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  9. Thank you for sharing these quotes. I, too, am at somewhat of a crossroads in my life. These words have a lot of meaning to me. Love the laughter you bring with your bachelor/ette posts, but I enjoyed the depth of this post. Thank you!
    Bobbie in Denton (no relation to the douchebag in Denton)

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    1. Glad I hit a chord. Hang in there through the transition, be vigilant, and appreciate what's good. DP

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  10. Love the depth of this post. I read "The Prince of Tides" and "South of Broad" a few years ago when you posted about your love of Pat Conroy. Loved them. On a surface level, I was looking forward to your "fantasy suite" recap but don't worry, your voice was in my head as I listened to all of the innuendos that I'm sure you would have listed.
    ~Cariss

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    1. ~Cariss, you think Ben asked any of the girls if they needed it "innuendo"?

      You're welcome. DP

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  11. DP...what a great post! I'm a long-time reader (via Lincee), but this is my first comment.

    I enjoy your humor and sarcasm when reading all things Bachelor, but this particular post was very moving. So many of Pat Conroy's words hit home for me. I grew up in a semi-abusive home and I'm still trying to find "my own" as a 40 something adult. These were poignant quotes for me.

    Thank you for sharing, but more importantly, thank you for using your time to regularly entertain, enlighten, and motivate us readers.

    All the best to you and Mrs. SGIA.

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    1. Good to know you're out there. Thanks for the comment and the well wishes. DP

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  12. Recap of WTA - Lots of bitch slapping, with snark and judgey as sides. Harrison was Harrison, and Resting Bitch Face ruled. Time well spent on this.

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    1. ann, you have the gift of brevity. you should recap every week. DP

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  13. I've noted that your posts are less mean this season - - - I will admit that during Chris' season I stopped reading your posts; I felt that you'd become so full of vitriol and crass that I winced.
    I'm glad that I came back to your posts. You seem more insightful and generous, while still being biting and entertaining.

    I was surprised by this post. I agree that it is a gift, a nice gift at that. An unexpected tribute to someone who has profoundly influenced you with their insight and words. I stumbled onto this post while in the midst of my own chaotic week where I find myself dealing with the sadness of loosing someone I loved while trying to still maintain my daily doings where others depend on me. Thank you for taking me into another space, outside of my own head.

    I haven't read Conroy, up to now...

    Jan in Colorado

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    1. I suppose Ben elicits less of a visceral reaction than Chris did. I'd take exception at "full of vitriol," not because I disbelieve you but because it implies I actually care about what happens during the season. Crass? Fair enough. I'm not for everyone. However, I appreciate the comment, the feedback, and most of all, your readership. Thanks, DP

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  14. I read South of Broad by chance after raiding my uncle's bookshelf a few years ago. I remember being struck by the beauty of Conroy's writing. An aspiring writer myself, I may or may not have snuck the book back to my own house and put it on my "good examples" shelf. I appreciate your description - that he sounds like he is speaking to himself. I felt the same way reading his book. That's how I want to write. Some people do it naturally; the rest of us have to work hard to shed all of the artifice and just talk.

    Thanks for the opportunity to reflect.

    -Katie in H-town

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  15. Thanks for your tribute to Conroy -- beautiful writer and so are you. I also appreciated you tribute to Scalia -- brilliant legal mind who will be missed. I was a big fan.

    Marti in Dallas

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  16. Wow. Loved the quotes. Thank you for sharing.

    I don't blame you for not wanting to watch the WTA. I barely made it through.

    You can check out my recap here: http://cafeemily.com/bachelor-2016-episode-10-recap/

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  17. Well SG, you made me cry. I had sort of given up on your Bachelor reporting for the season but took a quick peek here and saw your beautiful eulogy for Pat Conroy. Thank you so much. I love his writing, Beach Music was my very favorite, and then South of Broad. His writing was music, and I was so sad to learn the music has stopped. The Lords of Discipline disturbed me.... and I haven't read all the others, but I will. And I'll read Beach Music and South of Broad again. I'm sorry for your loss. Kris

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  18. Well SG, you made me cry. I had sort of given up on your Bachelor reporting for the season but took a quick peek here and saw your beautiful eulogy for Pat Conroy. Thank you so much. I love his writing, Beach Music was my very favorite, and then South of Broad. His writing was music, and I was so sad to learn the music has stopped. The Lords of Discipline disturbed me.... and I haven't read all the others, but I will. And I'll read Beach Music and South of Broad again. I'm sorry for your loss. Kris

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