Bio: The novelist Pat Conroy's life and personal experience are so inextricably bound up with his writing that, at first glance, it might seem that he is merely retelling the story of his life, again and again. The truth is, as usual, far more complicated and interesting. Significant elements and characters in his novels are obviously drawn from his life, a choice that apparently has created tremendous tension in his family. But these facts are merely points of departure for the author, who has a gift that is perhaps the most desirable and elusive of all for any novelist--the ability to spin an unforgettable story.
Conroy was born in 1945 in Atlanta, the eldest of seven children and the son of Col. Donald Conroy, a man not unlike the hero of "The Great Santini." He attended The Citadel, the South Carolina military academy that inspired the setting for The Lords of Discipline, and briefly taught school on an island off the South Carolina coast, an experience recounted in The Water Is Wide. The fallout from his life with his family seems to have inspired Conroy to create deeply compelling stories of vivid characters searching for love and fulfillment. These tales are invariably rooted in the infernal complexities and often dark realities of Southern tradition, notably in The Lords of Discipline and The Prince of Tides. The death of his mother--a crafty Southern woman who chose to be called Peggy, after the author of "Gone With the Wind"--led him to write his most recent novel "Beach Music."
Though Conroy's books have created publicized rifts within his own family, they stand on their own with the public and most critics, having been embraced by a faithful and ever-growing readership and inspiring popular film adaptations. "Misfortune," Garry Abrams wrote in the Los Angeles Times, "has been good to novelist Pat Conroy."
The Great Santini is an affecting coming-of-age story that does not blink in its depiction of a tight and loving family on the edge of disaster. Set in the rich, sleepy atmosphere of coastal South Carolina in the early 1960s, the novel echoes the timeless tension that emerges between vigorous fathers and their maturing sons, the inevitable clash of personal pride and selfless love, the jealous frustration that comes with maturity. Bull Meecham, known to all as "The Great Santini," can't push his... more info>>
Years before it became a center of controversy for its traditional exclusion of women, South Carolina's venerable military academy The Citadel inspired novelist Pat Conroy (who is one of its graduates) to craft a powerful and vivid story he called The Lords of Discipline. The novel takes place at the fictional Carolina Military Institute, and the author specifically notes that he based his story in details drawn from the experiences of cadets at many other such schools. The burden of tradition a... more info>>
To tell his story, Tom Wingo, the scarred but proud hero of Pat Conroy's The Prince of Tides, must go on a journey--a literal, geographical journey to New York from his home on the South Carolina coast that leads to a psychological journey from the present to the past, to a virtual prison of memory. What he finds there is both terrible and liberating, for him and for his whole broken but remarkable family. Ambitious and intoxicating, The Prince of Tides is Conroy's biggest and most popular novel... more info>>
Readers know Pat Conroy as a novelist of great reputation and success, but his first notable achievement as a writer was an autobiographical book called The Water is Wide, published in 1972--the story of a year in his life as a teacher of poor African-American children on a coastal island in South Carolina. The New York Times called The Water is Wide "a hell of a good story," and that observation points to one of Conroy's supreme gifts as a writer of fiction--the ability to craft an irresistible... more info>>