Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Pat Conroy

JMC and Tessie have a small discussion going about Pat Conroy's book Beach Music. (In the comments on JMC's blog.) It's an excellent novel and I highly recommend it if any of you haven't read it. But their discussion reminded me that I should tell you all my story about seeing Pat Conroy.

I won't even try to tell you what year this happened. (I think we've seen that years are not my strong suit.) I really don't even remember if it was while we were in college or if it was in those first few years after we graduated. Anyway, my college best friend Kelly (yes, I know, how original, right? Our friends used to call us the Shelly and Kelly Show) and her mother invited me to Charlotte to attend an event at which Pat Conroy was speaking. He read from one of his books, I don't remember which one, but I hadn't read it at the time. Not saying much, because at the time, I think the only one of his books that I had read was Prince of Tides (good book). Then he took questions from the audience. In order to ask a question, you had to walk up to the front of the auditorium and ask your question into a microphone on the opposite side of the stage from Pat Conroy. He was angled towards you and you were angled towards him, so you were looking right at him, asking your question. Well, Kelly is great at thinking of good questions to ask, but very timid about going up on stage with famous authors. I'm not timid, but I suck at thinking of good questions to ask famous people. So I agreed to go up with her, and we went up on stage to ask our questions. Kelly went first. Pat Conroy asked her name, she told him and then she asked her question. I don't remember what she asked, but Pat Conroy beamed at her, told her what a sweet Southern girl she was, and what a nice question that was. He answered it, Kelly stepped down off the stage, and then it was my turn. I stepped up to the microphone, Pat Conroy asked my name, I told him, then I said, "You've told some very personal stories about your family in your books. How does your family feel about you telling those stories?" Well. He glared at me and then he said, "My father would have loved you." in a voice that let me know that was no compliment. Apparently, his father was none too thrilled to be The Great Santini. And that was a very sore subject for Mr. Conroy. So guess who picked the wrong question to ask? I have never been happier to get off a stage in my life.


Tessie said...

You are very eagle-eyed to have caught that! I really liked the book too.

ACK on the Pat Conroy story! He seems very...moody. I get that vibe from his books too.

Shelly said...

Oh, I'll butt my nose into any book discussion! I'm always dying to talk about books.

And then last night as I was falling asleep, I suddenly went, "Wait a minute, I've met Pat Conroy! And he hated me! That's a pretty good story. I should totally blog that."

JMC said...

Ha! And Ha! Have you read "The Great Santini"? The portrayal of his father is none too flattering. But I'm guessing he was more upset that the question was asked at all, since he'd probably been asked and answered that question a thousand times over in the press, and figured you already knew the answer and were prodding a dead horse. I can sympathize with your mortification, though, and since it's long past, LAUGH at it.

Anyway, once upon a time, I reviewed "Beach Music" on my blog. You can find it here. From time to time, I talk about books on my blog, so I hope you'll join in the discussions.

Shelly said...

Hey jmc! I hadn't read The Great Santini at the time, but I have now and you're right - the portrayal of his father is terrible. I can definitely understand why his father wasn't too happy about that book. At the time, I was really just thinking, Hey, my parents would kill me if I told stories like that about them, how do you get away with it? But I guess it didn't come across that way. Oh, laugh away, that's precisely why I told the story! : )

You would have to keep me away with a stick! I love book discussions!