Friday, 9 December 2016

On Meetings With Remarkable Characters

I went to the Main Library in town yesterday, to give their Children’s Section a bunch of 2017 Calendars that I get from all sorts of worthy causes that I make donations to - Save the Mistreated Horses and Save the Mistreated Donkeys and Save the Big Cats and Save the Kids Who Are Living On the Streets, and whatever all (who knew there was so much mistreatment going on in the world??  In our world???) - for the nice big pictures that they have, for their displays and such, and ended up crying my eyes out and wetting my handkerchief beyond momentary repair for my pains.  That outcome was occasioned because while I was there, I glanced over their New Books collection (as if I don’t have enough reading material already at home to get to at some point; but if you are a reader, you will understand the impulse), and noticed a small book with the name Pat Conroy on it, at the top of a gentle painting of a sunset scene on a waterway, with a notepad and pen lying (or it could be laying, too) on a small stretch of marshland beach in the foreground.  It was titled ‘A Lowcountry Heart,’ and subtitled ‘Reflections on a Writing Life’.  Reflections??  It turns out that Pat Conroy died earlier this year.  In the spring.  Well chosen, Pat.

I was, in fact, stunned at the news.  And pained.  A deep stabbing hurt in the heart.  I have not read all of his books.  But I have read enough of his oeuvre to be able to tell you - if you don’t already know - that this guy is -

was - - -

is - 

a joy to read.  

If you like life.

In all of its permutations.  As filtered through the iridescent mind, and sharply observant eyes, of a consummate artist, painting and composing beautifully; inspired by and in his love affair with the English language - a treasure, shared with us, as from the sea of understanding, washed up on our eager shores.

You don't have to read far in the works of such an author to know when you are in the presence of a born storyteller.  (And why else would such a born liberal be hatched in the shadow of a born knuckle-dragger?  If not for a little of each to wash off on the other??  By The Great Storyteller of them all.) 

This particular book is a memorabilia, of stuff by him - essays, letters, a speech he gave to the 2001 Graduating Class of The Citadel, his beloved, and irascible, alma mater (a particularly poignant entry, that one) - and about him by his friends.  Of whom there is a multitude.   A particularly loving multitude.

Don’t get me wrong.  Reading Pat Conroy is not all about the eliciting of tears.  Unless you include tears of laughter in that description as well.  The guy is - was - is funny, too.  Very funny.  Very.  Very.  Funny.  And as in an observer, and chronicler - a particularly fastidious observer, and chronicler - of the human comedy.

Read it, and him.  It’ll do you some good.  If not, at least it will not be a bad way to while some time away, in this vale of tears.  Of all kinds.

But make no mistake: You will miss something if you do not avail yourself of the opportunity to read something penned by this guy.  Because this guy is -

is -

a writer.


P.S. I have realized that I haven't cried this hard since my brother died.  And that one - many years ago, now; as these things go, on a linear scale - connected me properly to humanity.  This one brought me back from the brink.

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