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07 March 2016

Pat Conroy: Prince of Authors

It was with great sadness that I learnt of the passing of Pat Conroy, who I considered was America's Prince of Authors. 

What always impressed me was Conroy's love for the scenic marshlands of coastal South Carolina. As an Aussie I have never been to SC but Conroy made sure that it is top of my list of places to visit. Conroy lived in Beaufort, SC because 'it's too beautiful to leave'. 

Some people considered Conroy's prose too flowery but I loved its lyrical and almost poetic style. 

To describe our growing up in the low country of South Carolina, I would have to take you to the marsh on a spring day, flush the great blue heron from its silent occupation, scatter marsh hens as we sink to our knees in mud, open an oyster with a pocketknife and feed it to you from the shell and say, 'There. That taste. That's the taste of my childhood.' 

Pat Conroy had a tortured family life which was an unending source of inspiration for his fiction, notably the novels “The Great Santini,” “The Lords of Discipline” and “The Prince of Tides”. He said:

One of the greatest gifts you can get as a writer is to be born into an unhappy family.

Recently I revisited Prince of Tides as an Audiobook narrated brilliantly by the late Frank Muller. In his introduction to the audiobook, Pat Conroy said that Muller "gave me ... a work of art". I strongly recommend that narration which turned a really great book into a minor masterpiece.

Another Conroy quote that I will always remember was:

Without music, life is a journey through a desert.

Conroy died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 70. I hope that he will be able to enjoy Beach Music wherever he is.

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