Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bumble Bees

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.


  1. What a wonderful post, Priya! This makes me want to run out and pick up Conroy. And his books are set in my backyard!

  2. I have a copy of South of Broad and am totally in love with the Low Country. Maybe after reading this, I will totally be in love with Pat Conroy!

  3. Great post! I read The Water is Wide and then The Prince of Tides when I was still in my teens (like 20 years ago), and I LOVED Prince of Tides. I bought Beach Music not too long after it was published, but then never read it. I *finally* listened to the audiobook last year, narrated by the excellent Frank Muller, and it was AWESOME. I cried multiple times, and loved every backstory detour, and the ending did me in.

    I don't have South of Broad, but it sounds like classic Conroy, so I'd probably love it. Hmm, maybe some day I'll get to The Lords of Discipline and/or The Great Santini, which are also languishing on my shelves.

    I really like that bumble bee idea! And you're right, Conroy must have "a fleet" of bees! :-D

  4. I love your way of describing his writing style, I can't really judge it for myself, but reading your posts always brings the author and their books to life for me. Sorry I haven't stopped by in a while, I hope you're doing ok. Love from London x

  5. I do not know this author, should I be saying this? You certainly give him a great recommendation in this post. Have you reached the UK yet?

  6. lisa, i am reading south of broad now and love that too!

    michelle, i have never been to south carolina but want to after reading these!

    heath mocha frost, i have never tried an audio book. this one sounds wonderful.

    carole, so glad you stopped by!

    lindy lou mac, i had never read him either! he is fantastic!

  7. I will have to look out for this author in Europe then Priya


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