I have fallen madly for Pat Conroy. I just re read Beach Music in all its variant lushness and am now plowing through South of Broad. His writing is huge.
When I teach writing, I tell my students to follow that bumble of unrestrained thought that zips across your mind before your big booted, finicky inner editor goes out bumble bee squishing. Everyone has a bumble bee of random, irrepressible, engaged thought that goes flying around your mental sky before common sense, that killer of flying things, kicks in.
Conroy has a fleet of bumble bees. He writes in a voice rich in bold, specific, observant precision. His writing is apologetically random and loosely strung. His characters are exact, human and deeply quirked. He draws in particulars. Fearlessly declaiming the large pink elephant in the corner, Conroy writes the thing we all think or have thought but he does not choose a garden variety thing. He goes for broke and looks for the thing that lives on a level so subtle that articulation does not know its address.
He loves ordinary verbs mismatched with extraordinary nouns. He will pair 'ride' with 'bloodstream' and suddenly a white blood cell is piloting a small Cessna through the vascular system. He anthropomorphises the inanimate and endows all he touches with a juicy beating heart. This writer loves the sea, courage, the salt, friendship, turtles, frailty and the low country of South Carolina. This writer lives out on a limb. It does not always work, but when it does, it is glorious.