Pat Conroy


Pat Conroy

Infobox Writer


imagesize = 150px
name = Pat Conroy
caption =
pseudonym =
birthdate = Birth date and age|1945|10|26|mf=y
birthplace = Atlanta, Georgia, United States
deathdate =
deathplace =
occupation = Novelist
Literary movement =
nationality = American
period = 1970-1990
genre = Literary fiction
subject =
movement =
notableworks = "The Great Santini"
influences =
influenced =
website = http://www.patconroy.com/

Pat Conroy (born October 26, 1945 in Atlanta, Georgia), is a "New York Times" bestselling author who has written several acclaimed novels and memoirs.

Early life

He was the eldest of seven children born to Marine Colonel Donald Conroy, of Chicago and the former Frances "Peggy" Peck of Georgia.

Conroy's stories have been heavily influenced by his upbringing. His father, a military pilot, was physically and emotionally abusive toward his children, and the pain of a youth growing up in such a harsh environment is evident in Conroy's novels, particularly "The Great Santini". The military life also pushed the family from post to post, and Conroy claims to have moved 23 times before he was 18. His association with Beaufort, South Carolina began when he was 15 and had already been in two high schools elsewhere. As he started again in Beaufort, he determined to change his feeling of rootlessness and make a home for himself in Beaufort.

While living in Orlando, Florida in 1954, Conroy's 5th grade basketball team defeated a team of 6th graders, making the sport his prime outlet for bottled-up emotions for more than a dozen years.

Writing career

Conroy is a graduate of The Citadel, and his experiences there were the inspiration for two of his best-known works, the novel "The Lords of Discipline" and the memoir "My Losing Season". The latter details his senior year on the school's underdog basketball team, which won the longest game in the history of college basketball against rival Virginia Military Institute in quadruple overtime in 1967.

His first book, "The Boo", is a collection of anecdotes about cadet life centering on Lt. Colonel Nugent Courvoisie, who had served as Commandant of Cadets at the Citadel from 1961 to 1988cite web|url=http://pao.citadel.edu/courvoisie| title=Lt. Col. Thomas Nugent Courvoisie - The Boo - passes away;| accessdate=2007-07-07 ] (Courvoisie appears as the fictional character Colonel Thomas Berrineau, a.k.a. "The Bear," in "The Lords Of Discipline"). After completing "The Boo", Conroy couldn't find a publisher for the book, so he self-published it.

After graduating from the Citadel, Conroy taught English in Beaufort, South Carolina, where he met and married a young woman with two children (whom he adopted), a widow of the Vietnam War. He then accepted a job teaching children in a one-room schoolhouse on remote Daufuskie Island, South Carolina.

Conroy was fired at the conclusion of his first year of teaching on the island for his unconventional teaching practices, including his refusal to use corporal punishment on students, and for his lack of respect for the school's administration.

Conroy wrote his book "The Water Is Wide" based on his experiences as a teacher. The book won Conroy a humanitarian award from the National Education Association and was made into a feature film, "Conrack", starring Jon Voight in 1974. Hallmark produced a television version of the book in 2006.

In 1976, Conroy published his first novel, "The Great Santini". The main character of the novel, Colonel "Bull" Meecham, is a Marine fighter pilot who dominates and terrorizes his family, and who psychologically abuses his teenage son, Ben. The character is based on Conroy's father, Donald. (According to "My Losing Season", Donald Conroy was even worse than the character depicted in "Santini".)

"The Great Santini" earned Pat Conroy a lot of trouble with his family, who felt that he had betrayed family secrets by writing about his father. Members of his mother's family would picket Conroy's book signings, passing out pamphlets asking people not to buy the novel. The book eventually helped repair Conroy's relationship with his father, and they became very close. His father, looking to prove that he was not like the character in the book, changed his manners drastically. According to Conroy, his father would often sign copies of his son's novels as "Donald Conroy - The Great Santini." The novel was made into a film of the same name in 1979, starring Robert Duvall.

Publication of "The Lords of Discipline" in 1980 outraged many of his fellow graduates of The Citadel, who felt that his thinly-veiled portrayal of campus life was highly unflattering. The rift was not healed until 2000, when Conroy was awarded an honorary degree and asked to deliver the commencement address the following year. And, somewhat ironically, his first cousin Ed Conroy (also a Citadel graduate) was later named the school's basketball coach. As Pat Conroy says in the novel, "I wear the ring", meaning that as a graduate of the Citadel, he has earned the right to judge, despise, and love this academy.

In 1986, Conroy published "The Prince of Tides", another novel about a dysfunctional South Carolina family. The book tells the story of Tom Wingo, an unemployed South Carolina teacher, who goes to New York City to help his sister, Savannah, a poet who has attempted suicide, to come to terms with their past. The book is partly based on Conroy's relationship with his sister, Carol. After the book was published, Conroy's sister stopped speaking to him for several years. Again, the novel was made into a film of the same name in 1991, starring Nick Nolte and Barbra Streisand.

In 1994, Conroy published "Beach Music", a novel about an American ex-patriate living in Rome who returns to South Carolina upon news of his mother's terminal illness while attempting to confront personal demons, including the suicide of his wife, the subsequent custody battle with his in-laws over their daughter, and the attempt by a film-making friend to rekindle old friendships which were compromised during the days of the Vietnam War.

In the same 2007 interview, Conroy stated that he's almost finished with his next book, noting that it will mark a return to the same dysfunctional characters he's known for and is already nearly 700 pages. The novel will be set in Charleston and will be "back to normal" in terms of style.

Conroy's South Carolina roots clearly show in all his work. His most recent work, "The Pat Conroy Cookbook," is a collection of favorite recipes accompanied by stories about his life, including many stories of growing up in South Carolina.

Personal life

Conroy currently lives on Fripp Island, South Carolina, with his wife Cassandra King. King is an author of four popular novels. Conroy has commented that his wife is a much happier writer than he is. In an interview with the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution", he commented: "I'll hear her cackle with laughter at some funny line she's written. I've never cackled with laughter at a single line I've ever written. None of it has given me pleasure. She writes with pleasure and joy, and I sit there in gloom and darkness."fact|date=July 2007

Conroy's friend, political cartoonist Doug Marlette, died in a car wreck in July 2007. Conroy and Joe Klein eulogized Marlette at the funeral. [ [http://www.indyweek.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A157244 "Independent Weekly", "Goodbye, Doug Marlette" July 18, 2007] ] There were 10 eulogists in all, and Conroy called Marlette his best friend, [http://www.wral.com/news/state/story/1593544/ "WRAL", "Friends Remember Doug Marlette As Staunch Defender of Free Speech" July 14, 2007] ] and said: "The first person to cry, when he heard about Doug's death, was God." [ [http://www.time-blog.com/swampland/2007/07/in_memoriumand_a_touch_of_clas.html "Time" blog, "In Memorium...and a Touch of Class" July 15, 2007] ]

Works

*"The Boo", 1970
*"The Water Is Wide", 1972
*"The Great Santini", 1976
*"The Lords of Discipline", 1980
*"The Prince of Tides", 1986
*"Beach Music", 1995
*"My Losing Season", 2002
*"" 1999

External links

* [http://wiredforbooks.org/patconroy/ 1986 interview of Pat Conroy] by Don Swaim at Wired for Books
* [http://www.patconroy.com/ Official Web site for Pat Conroy]
* [http://www.ismaili.net/press/jrny0008.html Excerpts from 1991 interview]
* [http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-500 Entry in New Georgia Encyclopedia]
*worldcat id|lccn-n50-32091

References


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