Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life

by Pat Conroy
Nan Talese     2016
320 pages     Essays

Pat Conroy, the South's quintessential author, died on March 4 of this year, and today would have been his 71st birthday. A Lowcountry Heart is a last collection of his writings, from blog postings to interviews, and some speeches. It also includes a few eulogies and memorial writings.

He was a consummate story teller. We know him for his most famous books: The Prince of Tides, The Water is Wide, The Great Santini, and The Lords of Discipline, all of which were made into movies.  All of his books are filled with the beauty of the South Carolina seacoast, where he lived and where he died. As I was reading A Lowcountry Heart, I watched the movie The Prince of Tides once again—what a great story. Each blog posting and essay in the book tells of a larger-than-life soul who loved people, loved life, and loved the Low Country. One reviewer says, "Conroy’s lighthearted and eminently memorable pieces offer a unique window into the life of a true titan of Southern writing."

Conroy began each of his blog postings, "Hey Out There!" What a lovely greeting. Over and over in the essays and blog postings in A Lowcountry Heart, Conroy speaks of trying to live while knowing deep inside that he is dying. In one posting, he talks about his struggle to get fit following a bad health scare. He says that he and a trainer opened a health studio in Beaufort South Carolina because "there are four or five more books I'd like to write before I meet with Jesus of Nazareth—as my mother promised me—on the day of my untimely death, or reconcile myself to a long stretch of nothingness as my nonbelieving friends insist." 

Well, his efforts were not enough to save him. After his death his friends and family gathered his last writings into this lovely book. They also created the Pat Conroy Literary Center in Beaufort, which is a charming building dedicated to the literary arts and will feature events, workshops, and writing classes. Here is a link to it. 

I received a copy of the book from my friend Marly Rusoff, who was Conroy's literary agent. She is the founding director of the Literary Center. The Center is establishing a literary festival which will take place this week every year.What a wonderful tribute to a great author.

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