Oh how I love Pat Conroy. Let me count the ways!
So there’s a kind of scene I like. Love. Want to crawl inside and burrow into. It’s gotta have emotional intensity, it’s gotta have a hint of revelation, a hint of risk, a hint of exposure. You know that line, that cliche, about heartstrings? This is nervestrings, maybe. The kind of scene I like tugs on some part of you that makes you jump like you’ve been zapped, a little jolt of electricity that makes you reread that line, that monologue, that word, leaning in, crowding the book in your hand like it owns you.
Writing scenes like that is the highest high, the best score, the thing I can’t give up no matter what it takes out of me. (That’s in direct reference to Extremes. Just. Wait.) Reading scenes like that is why I try new authors, why I seek out new books.
And Pat Conroy? Delivers every time.
I first met Conroy through the movie for The Prince of Tides. Oh my god, what a drama fest! And we know I have a thing for power played out across different stages, and we know I have a thing for therapists who never turn it off, and the book delivers even better than the movie.
(I have angst about endings lately, and I’ve just remembered the end of that book. Lowenstein, Lowenstein, Lowenstein, my fat ass, Mr Conroy.)
Conroy’s a big damn cheater, and I say that with the utmost respect. Conroy writes in close third person or first, depending, then veers off into first/distant third from other points of view as needed to tell a thousand other stories within the main book. It used to drive me insane, because it’s fucking cheating, except he pulls it off. How? No idea. But he does.
The bliss I feel about Conroy has to do with his ability to hit the perfect emotional note. God, Beach Music? That story writes directly to my fucking soul, bitches. He’s playing with timelines, he’s playing with generations, he’s playing with everyone’s allegiance to everyone else, to their oldest friends, to their parents, to the dead. The climax of that book is this huge setup, this big scene full of people, full of drama, and I love every fucking second of it.
I’m gonna give you my three stand-outs, because I can, and because I love these books in a similar fashion to the way I love my own. These won’t be big spoilery scenes. They’ll be small scenes. Moments.
Prince of Tides: The bit where the mom (and yes, I know, I love these books, but I can’t pull up her name; blame my increasingly faulty memory) mixes Spanish and French in submitting a recipe to the local hoity-toity town ladies. It’s such a fucking small thing, and so perfect, so humiliating, so gutting.
Prince of Tides: Everything football in the park. What a fucking amazing subplot. (A conflict of interest, but Lowenstein, clearly, is not a paragon of boundaries.) In fact, everything with the kid. That last scene, at the train station? Oh my god. Beautiful.
Beach Music: No contest, this tiny, itty bitty scene-within-a-scene, Jordan recalling the therapist he and his mother had seen, the military therapist. Oh my bloody fuck. You’re not allowed to do that! You’re not allowed to write one POV and recall things from someone else’s, but shit, I’ll take it, cut nothing, I want all of it because I’m a greedy motherfucker.
Whew. Time to reread. Time to spend money on new Conroy, which I still haven’t read. Oh my god, for real.
Give me a scene. Give me a scene that twisted your heart and made you squirm and always hits you hard, no matter how many times you reread it. Any book, any author (but definitely tell us both book and author)!