Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Pat Conroy: Interpreting Life Through A Coastal Lens

If I could immerse myself in one landscape it would be the Lowcountry, that region of coastal South Carolina and Georgia dominated by vast marshes and barrier islands. The landscape speaks a language I have heard nowhere else and remains a subject for artists and writers as it has been for centuries. Yesterday marked the seventieth birthday of Pat Conroy, arguably the finest living interpreter of that coastal magic and its vivid use in fiction.

Pat Conroy at Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 2014
As usual  there was nothing to find in the media other than the obligatory and brief single liner; therefore, I am left to bring readers more than a name and a date about the writer I consider to be a treasure for his rich descriptive writing and intense webs of characters forged out of family and place.  To begin, he has extraordinary skill in probing the long childhoods many of us faced as we grew and changed. For him personally, the earlier years were an arduous journey, carried out with the same reality that comes with recognizing nature as a cruel mother. There was beauty and light along the way, but the mountains didn't stand without the valleys, and Conroy's reality had its share of both. Some may not enjoy reading of such journeys and the fiction they inspire but his interpretation of the dance of life touched millions by the time he was 35. Now in the twilight of career, Conroy has immersed himself in the Lowcountry setting of Beaufort, South Carolina. a few miles from the setting of his memoir, The River is Wide (1972). Readers may recall that the book was the basis for the 1974 film, Conrack

As it has been with virtually all of his fiction - and not likely to change - the author finds himself where much of his intellectual life as a writer began.  For this reader, it's been a memorable journey with an author who has taken the everyday and unique events in a life's journey and turned them into some of the most lyrical writing of our time.

Moon River view from the Diamond Causeway, Savannah, Georgia

N.B. The image of Conroy at Chapel Hill comes from a screen capture of a UNCTV interview conducted in February 2014. Interested readers may view this 27 minute program here. Well worth your time.



Moon River photo credit: Emily E. Beck

No comments: