Pat Conroy, a large white-haired man, stood on a stage in front of a seated crowd last night in Columbus, Georgia. He’s the author of The Prince of Tides and Beach Music (my favorites), and he was the speaker at a black-tie dinner honoring a local doctor. Prior to the event, I had some concern that even though Conroy was a great writer, he might not be a great speaker. Not to worry. The man can tell a story.
And that’s what he did last night. He leaned forward, his arms outstretched, one on each side of the lectern. He looked at the audience as he spoke about how he paid to have his first book The Boo (which he admitted was not very good) published. Then he told us that when his agent called two years later to tell him that his next book, The Water is Wide, was going to be published for $7500, his response was “I can get it done way cheaper down here.”
He looked a bit stuffed into his tux and his breathing was noticeable. But with sincerity and without sentimentality, he told us stories–the truth about the last days of his mother and then of his father.
Pat Conroy was born in Atlanta in 1945, and he now lives on Fripp Island in South Carolina with his wife, the novelist Cassandra King, who came with him last night. To see him interview her, check out this YouTube video.
Pat Conroy’s new novel, South of Broad, is expected out in September.