Book reviews, Non-fiction

Our Prince of Scribes: Writers Remember Pat Conroy

Edited by Nicole Seitz and Jonathan Haupt

From the Publisher:

OUR PRINCE OF SCRIBES: Writers Remember Pat Conroy, publisher  University of Georgia Press.

The book came out September 18, 2018, and features more than 65 essays and remembrances of the beloved southern author who passed away in 2016 from pancreatic cancer. The editors are Nicole Seitz, an author from Conroy’s Story River imprint, and Jonathan Haupt, executive director of the Pat Conroy Literary Center in Beaufort, SC. Other contributors include: Rick Bragg, Patti Callahan Henry, Mary Alice Monroe, and many others.

New York Times best-selling writer Pat Conroy (1945-2016) inspired a worldwide legion of devoted fans numbering in the millions, but none are more loyal to him and more committed to sustaining his literary legacy than the many writers he nurtured over the course of his fifty-year writing life. In sharing their stories of Conroy, his fellow writers honor his memory and advance our shared understanding of his lasting impact on twentieth- and twenty-first-century literary life in and well beyond the American South.

Conroy’s was a messy fellowship of people from all walks of life. His relationships were complicated, and people and places he thought he’d left behind often circled back to him at crucial moments. The pantheon of contributors includes Pulitzer Prize winners Rick Bragg and Kathleen Parker; Grammy winners Barbra Streisand and Janis Ian; Lillian Smith Award winners Anthony Grooms and Mary Hood; National Book Award winner Nikky Finney; James Beard Foundation Award winners Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart; a corps of New York Times best-selling authors, including Ron Rash, Sandra Brown, and Mary Alice Monroe; Conroy biographers Katherine Clark and Catherine Seltzer; longtime Conroy friends Bernie Schein, Cliff Graubart, John Warley, and Walter Edgar; Pat’s students Sallie Ann Robinson and Valerie Sayers; members of the Conroy family; and many more.

Each author in this collection shares a slightly different view of Conroy. Through their voices, a vibrant, multifaceted portrait of him comes to life and sheds new light on the writer and the man. Loosely following Conroy’s own chronology, the essays in Our Prince of Scribes wind through his river of a story, stopping at important ports of call. Cities he called home and longed to visit, along with each book he birthed, become characters that are as equally important as the people he touched and loved along the way.

My Thoughts on the Book:

I remember going to see “Prince of Tides” in the local movie theater with my mother when I was in high school. She had read the book and was so excited for the movie. We both loved it. I did not actually read any of Pat Conroy’s books until many years later, but that had been such a beautiful introduction to his work.

I find it difficult to “review” a collection of essays, each essay is so different. This is a lovely tribute to a man whose work influenced many people – writers and non writers alike.

I learned a lot about Pat Conroy from this book and it was organized in a way that I did not expect. It started with people who were able to tell stories about him when he was young and took you through his career. I was touched at how many people knew him and wrote essays for this book. Each person seemed to actually have known Mr. Conroy and were not just writing about his influence on them as a writer, but also his influence on them as a person. He was a beautiful man, which I guess should not come as a surprise, because how could someone write such beautiful, touching novels if they were not a kind, inspiring, good person?

I also learned a lot about Southern culture and how tight the community of Southern writers can be. Pat Conroy was a good friend to many, always there to lend an ear or a hand. He was the kind of friend that you could just pick up where you left off, even if you had not spoken for a while; but he did make a point to stay in touch with his many friends.

I came away from this book thinking that he lived his fiction. His fictional characters and the way I felt reading his books were what he exuded in life. What a beautiful legacy to leave.

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