Monday, November 11, 2013

The one where I met one of my heroes...

I still am bewildered that it actually happened.

I met one of my literary heroes, and I will never be the same.

When I was twenty years old without a care in the world, right in the middle of my college career, I had the unique opportunity, the once-in-a-lifetime experience, of living in Charleston, South Carolina for the summer with three of my best friends from high school. Words really can't describe all the things I learned about myself, about the life I wanted to live, and the city that I fell in love with.

The reason I fell in love with the city: Pat Conroy.

I read his words as I walked the streets. Charleston seduced me just like he said it would.

“Charleston has a landscape that encourages intimacy and partisanship. I have heard it said that an inoculation to the sights and smells of the Carolina lowcountry is an almost irreversible antidote to the charms of other landscapes, other alien geographies. You can be moved profoundly by other vistas, by other oceans, by soaring mountain ranges, but you can never be seduced. You can even forsake the lowcountry, renounce it for other climates, but you can never completely escape the sensuous, semitropical pull of Charleston and her marshes.” 
― Pat ConroyThe Lords of Discipline

I have read all of his beautifully tragic and witty stories, and there is no one's craft of writing that I respect more. His words have power, evoke myriad emotions. His commanding voice incites and empowers me to keep striving to find my own voice.

When I finished reading all of the words he had written, I kept silently pleading for more... more stories, more descriptions, more raw beauty... When he did his book tour for My Losing Season in 2004, Dad and I had tickets to a book signing at the old Davis Kidd Bookstore, and I was devastated when he cancelled this leg of his tour due to illness. I devoured his words in this memoir like the pages were on fire in my insatiable quest for more more more.

When my parents called to tell me about an event he was scheduling for Nashville, I got reservedly excited, not wanting my hopes to be dashed again. Then, the week of the event, I was going through some personal struggles, and I honestly forgot all about it. Thankfully my parents and sweet husband ambushed me at work and took care of all the details for me to get to be able to go. I am forever grateful for them knowing me so well and their determination to make this night happen.

Nashville Public Libraries are partnering with our renowned independent bookstore Parnassus to bring authors to town on their book tours, and have named the event Salon 615. Pat Conroy's venue was Hume Fogg's historical auditorium. We sat on the second row, and the way his chair was angled, it felt like he was speaking directly to US. Mayor Karl Dean introduced this event, and when Ann Patchett, a local author and one of the owners of Parnassus, stepped out to interview him, my jaw dropped and my giddiness was palpable.
My parents had surprised me with a copy of his newest work: a non-fictional sequel to his first work of fiction, The Great Santini, that we were able to get signed!!! (My only disappointment of the whole experience lies in the still unsigned copy of my first addition Lords of Discipline that is packed up in a box somewhere while my house is on the market...I just couldn't pilfer through all of the madness in time...)

After waiting in line, I not only got to have my literary hero sign my book, but I also got to have a conversation with him--about Charleston, the city that we both love, about words, about writing... I still can't believe it actually happened...

But it did, and I am already engrossed in his new book that is inscribed: "For the love of fathers and Charleston." 
And because I just can't help myself, I will end this post with his words...

“I can't pass a bookstore without slipping inside, looking for the next book that will burn my hand when I touch its jacket, or hand me over a promissory note of such immense power that it contains the formula that will change everything about me.”
― Pat ConroyMy Reading Life

“Here's what I want from a book, what I demand, what I pray for when I take up a novel and begin to read the first sentence: I want everything and nothing less, the full measure of a writer's heart. I want a novel so poetic that I do not have to turn to the standby anthologies of poetry to satisfy that itch for music, for perfection and economy of phrasing, for exactness of tone. Then, too, I want a book so filled with story and character that I read page after page without thinking of food or drink because a writer has possessed me, crazed with an unappeasable thirst to know what happens next.” 
― Pat Conroy

“Great teachers had great personalities and that the greatest teachers had outrageous personalities. I did not like decorum or rectitude in a classroom; I preferred a highly oxygenated atmosphere, a climate of intemperance, rhetoric, and feverish melodrama. And I wanted my teachers to make me smart. A great teacher is my adversary, my conqueror, commissioned to chastise me. He leaves me tame and grateful for the new language he has purloined from other kings whose granaries are filled and whose libraries are famous. He tells me that teaching is the art of theft: of knowing what to steal and from whom. Bad teachers do not touch me; the great ones never leave me. They ride with me during all my days, and I pass on to others what they have imparted to me. I exchange their handy gifts with strangers on trains, and I pretend the gifts are mine. I steal from the great teachers. And the truly wonderful thing about them is they would applaud my theft, laugh at the thought of it, realizing they had taught me their larcenous skills well.” 
― Pat ConroyThe Lords of Discipline

“I prayed hard and only gradually became aware that this fierce praying was a way of finding prologue and entrance into my own writing. This came as both astonishment and relief. When I thought God had abandoned me, I discovered that He had simply given me a different voice to praise the inexhaustible beauty of the made world.” 
― Pat Corny

I stood face to face with the moon and the ocean and the future that spread out with all its bewildering immensity before me.” 
― Pat Conroy

“Carolina beach music," Dupree said, coming up on the porch. "The holiest sound on earth.” 
― Pat ConroyBeach Music

“I wanted to become the seeker, the aroused and passionate explorer, and it was better to go at it knowing nothing at all, always choosing the unmarked bottle, always choosing your own unproven method, armed with nothing but faith and a belief in astonishment.” 
― Pat ConroyThe Lords of Discipline

“No story is a straight line. The geometry of a human life is too imperfect and complex, too distorted by the laughter of time and the bewildering intricacies of fate to admit the straight line into its system of laws.” 
― Pat ConroyBeach Music

"I WEAR THE RING," Lords of Discipline

1 comment:

Tiffany Norris said...

That is amazing!!