Friday, February 28, 2014

Pat Conroy

Pat Conroy had the audience laughing for almost 90 minutes last night at the Township Auditorium in Columbia which was filled from orchestra to first balcony. As South Carolina’s literary icon, he held up his reputation in good form. Walter Edgar, the interviewer, hardly had to proffer a suggestion to get Conroy off on another of his stories about his dysfunctional family.

As an example, he told of his maternal grandmother, who respected the sacrament of marriage so much she engaged in it ten times, give or take. Among his quips were funeral stories: a relative who moaned “I can’t give him up…I can’t give him up…” before climbing into the coffin; his sister Carol Ann’s anguished pleas to their dying father that he say just once that he loves her. At which Conroy facetiously tells her that the father had called him every day, said “I love you. I’m proud of you.” In the end, it was to the brother-in-law the father rallies enough to award the much wanted words. Conroy’s father, “The Great Santini,” was a presence throughout the discussion.

The importance of the past to Conroy’s literary life places him securely in the Southern tradition. He loves South Carolina, and we love him, not that we want a personal relationship. Those dear to him pay the price of his edgy insights and barbed wit. 

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