Literary Birthday - 26 October - Pat Conroy

Pat Conroy was born 26 October 1945 and died 4 March 2016

'You get a little moody sometimes but I think that's because you like to read. People that like to read are always a little fucked up.' ~Pat Conroy, The Prince of Tides

Pat Conroy: 15 Brilliant Quotes On Reading and Writing

  1. My mother’s voice and my father’s fists are two bookends of my childhood, and they form the basis of my art.
  2. Good writing is the hardest form of thinking. It involves the agony of turning profoundly difficult thoughts into lucid form, then forcing them into the tight-fitting uniform of language, making them visible and clear. If the writing is good, then the result seems effortless and inevitable. But when you want to say something life-changing or ineffable in a single sentence, you face both the limitations of the sentence itself and the extent of your own talent.
  3. Books are living things and their task lies in their vows of silence. You touch them as they quiver with a divine pleasure. You read them and they fall asleep to happy dreams for the next 10 years. If you do them the favour of understanding them, of taking in their portions of grief and wisdom, then they settle down in contented residence in your heart.
  4. Here is all I ask of a book- give me everything. Everything, and don’t leave out a single word.
  5. 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.
  6. Here’s what I love: when a great writer turns me into a Jew from Chicago, a lesbian out of South Carolina, or a black woman moving into a subway entrance in Harlem. Turn me into something else, writers of the world. Make me Muslim, heretic, hermaphrodite. Put me into a crusader’s armour, a cardinal’s vestments. Let me feel the pygmy’s heartbeat, the queen’s breast, the torturer’s pleasure, the Nile’s taste, or the nomad’s thirst. Tell me everything that I must know. Hold nothing back.
  7. In our modern age, there are writers who have heaped scorn on the very idea of the primacy of story. I’d rather warm my hands on a sunlit ice floe than try to coax fire from the books they carve from glaciers.
  8. I trust the great novelists to teach me how to live, how to feel, how to love and hate. I trust them to show me the dangers I will encounter on the road as I stagger on my own troubled passage through the complicated life of books that try to teach me how to die.
  9. My father once told me that if he’d beaten me more as a kid, I’d be a better writer. My mother told me to be a Southern writer with emphasis on the word Southern.
  10. I always write first drafts of my books on long yellow legal pads using a pen. Once I’ve finished a new manuscript the pens go into a ceramic cup on my desk.
  11. The world of literature has everything in it, and it refuses to leave anything out. I have read like a man on fire my whole life because the genius of English teachers touched me with the dazzling beauty of language. Because of them I rode with Don Quixote and danced with Anna Karenina at a ball in St. Petersburg and lassoed a steer in ‘Lonesome Dove’ and had nightmares about slavery in ‘Beloved’ and walked the streets of Dublin in ‘Ulysses’ and made up a hundred stories in the Arabian nights and saw my mother killed by a baseball in ‘A Prayer for Owen Meany’. I’ve been in ten thousand cities and have introduced myself to a hundred thousand strangers in my exuberant reading career, all because I listened to my fabulous English teachers and soaked up every single thing those magnificent men and women had to give. I cherish and praise them and thank them for finding me when I was a boy and presenting me with the precious gift of the English language.
  12. A story untold could be the one that kills you.
  13. What’s important is that a story changes every time you say it out loud. When you put it on paper, it can never change. But the more times you tell it, the more changes will occur. A story is a living thing; it moves and shifts.
  14. You do not learn how to write novels in a writing program. You learn how by leading an interesting life. Open yourself up to all experience. Let life pour through you the way light pours through leaves.
  15. I was born into the century in which novels lost their stories, poems their rhymes, paintings their form, and music its beauty, but that does not mean I had to like that trend or go along with it. I fight against these movements with every book I write.

Pat Conroy was a New York Times best-selling author. He wrote 12 books, including several acclaimed novels and memoirs. Two of his novels, The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini, were made into Oscar-nominated films. He used his experience of living with his abusive father and his time in military school (the Citadel Military Academy in Charleston, South Carolina) for the novels he wrote.

Conroy moved 23 times before he was 18-years-old. His father was a violent, abusive, career military officer from Chicago, and his mother was a Southern beauty from Alabama, whom Conroy often credits with his love of language. His father's biggest mistake, Conroy once said, was allowing a novelist to grow up in his home. 

Amanda Patterson by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on  Pinterest,  Facebook,  LinkedIn,  Google+,  Tumblr,  and  Twitter.

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