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Quotes of the day: Pat Conroy
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Published Sunday, October 25, 2015 @ 11:19 AM EDT
Oct 25 2015

Pat Conroy (born October 26, 1945) is a New York Times bestselling author who has written several acclaimed novels and memoirs. Two of his novels, The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini, were made into Oscar-nominated films. He is recognized as a leading figure of late 20th century Southern literature. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)

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A library could show you everything if you knew where to look.

A recipe is a story that ends with a good meal.

A story untold could be the one that kills you.

Every woman I had ever met who walked through the world appraised and classified by an extraordinary physicality had also received the keys to an unbearable solitude. It was the coefficient of their beauty, the price they had to pay.

Evil would always come to me disguised in systems and dignified by law.

Except for memory, time would have no meaning at all.

Fantasy is one of the soul's brighter porcelains.There is such a thing as too much beauty in a woman and it is often a burden as crippling as homeliness and far more dangerous. It takes much luck and integrity to survive the gift of perfect beauty, and its impermanence is its most cunning betrayal.

Happiness is an accident of nature, a beautiful and flawless aberration.

Honor is the presence of God in man.

Humanity is best described as inhumanity.

I don't believe in happy families.

I have found human nature a bit contradictory in my living of it. Human life is incredibly strange.

I lived with the terrible knowledge that one day I would be an old man still waiting for my real life to start. Already, I pitied that old man.

I realized early that unless you're willing to kill the innocent, you can't win.

I still write in long hand. I type like a chimpanzee.

I told my kids when they were little, 'Look, kids, your mother and I are screwing you up somehow. We don't understand how, or we wouldn't do it. But we're parents. So somehow we're damaging you, and I want you to know that early. So just ignore me when I go to that part of my parenting.'

I've always found paranoia to be a perfectly defensible position.

I've never had anyone's approval, so I've learned to live without it.

In Charleston, more than elsewhere, you get the feeling that the twentieth century is a vast, unconscionable mistake.

In families, there are no crimes beyond forgiveness.

Know this. I think you could be special if you only thought there was anything special about yourself.

Like everything else, love's not worth much without some action to back it up.

Losing prepares you for the heartbreak, setback, and the tragedy that you will encounter in the world more than winning ever can. By licking your wounds you learn how to avoid getting wounded the next time.

Man wonders but God decides
When to kill the Prince of Tides

Men are prisoners of their genitalia and women are the keepers of the keys to paradise.

My mother, Southern to the bone, once told me, "All Southern literature can be summed up in these words: 'On the night the hogs ate Willie, Mama died when she heard what Daddy did to Sister.' She raised me up to be a Southern writer, but it wasn't easy.

Paranoia has a sharper taste if the danger is real.

Some things don't mix. Some things don't mix at all, but sometimes in life you have to take the risk.

Teach them the quiet words of kindness, to live beyond themselves. Urge them toward excellence, drive them toward gentleness, pull them deep into yourself, pull them upward toward manhood, but softly like an angel arranging clouds. Let your spirit move through them softly."

The mind is an intricate mechanism that can be run on the fuels of both victory and defeatism.

The most powerful words in English are 'Tell me a story,' words that are intimately related to the complexity of history, the origins of language, the continuity of the species, the taproot of our humanity, our singularity, and art itself.

The pursuit of greatness means that laziness has no place in your life.

There are no ideas in the South, just barbecue.

There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory.

There is no teacher more discriminating or transforming than loss.

Time moves funny and it's hard to pin down. Occasionally, time offers you a hundred opportunities to do the right thing. Sometimes, it gives you only one chance.

When men talk about the agony of being men, they can never quite get away from the recurrent theme of self-pity. And when women talk about being women, they can never quite get away from the recurrent theme of blaming men.

Why do they not teach you that time is a finger snap and an eye blink, and that you should not allow a moment to pass you by without taking joyous, ecstatic note of it, not wasting a single moment of its swift, breakneck circuit?

Without music and dance, life is a journey through a desert.

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October 24, 2007

To the Editor of the Charleston Gazette:

I received an urgent e-mail from a high school student named Makenzie Hatfield of Charleston, West Virginia. She informed me of a group of parents who were attempting to suppress the teaching of two of my novels, The Prince of Tides and Beach Music. I heard rumors of this controversy as I was completing my latest filthy, vomit-inducing work. These controversies are so commonplace in my life that I no longer get involved. But my knowledge of mountain lore is strong enough to know the dangers of refusing to help a Hatfield of West Virginia. I also do not mess with McCoys.

I've enjoyed a lifetime love affair with English teachers, just like the ones who are being abused in Charleston, West Virginia, today. My English teachers pushed me to be smart and inquisitive, and they taught me the great books of the world with passion and cunning and love. Like your English teachers, they didn't have any money either, but they lived in the bright fires of their imaginations, and they taught because they were born to teach the prettiest language in the world. I have yet to meet an English teacher who assigned a book to damage a kid. They take an unutterable joy in opening up the known world to their students, but they are dishonored and unpraised because of the scandalous paychecks they receive. In my travels around this country, I have discovered that America hates its teachers, and I could not tell you why. Charleston, West Virginia, is showing clear signs of really hurting theirs, and I would be cautious about the word getting out.

In 1961, I entered the classroom of the great Eugene Norris, who set about in a thousand ways to change my life. It was the year I read The Catcher in the Rye, under Gene's careful tutelage, and I adore that book to this very day. Later, a parent complained to the school board, and Gene Norris was called before the board to defend his teaching of this book. He asked me to write an essay describing the book's galvanic effect on me, which I did. But Gene's defense of The Catcher in the Rye was so brilliant and convincing in its sheer power that it carried the day. I stayed close to Gene Norris till the day he died. I delivered a eulogy at his memorial service and was one of the executors of his will. Few in the world have ever loved English teachers as I have, and I loathe it when they are bullied by know- nothing parents or cowardly school boards.

About the novels your county just censored: The Prince of Tides and Beach Music are two of my darlings which I would place before the altar of God and say, "Lord, this is how I found the world you made." They contain scenes of violence, but I was the son of a Marine Corps fighter pilot who killed hundreds of men in Korea, beat my mother and his seven kids whenever he felt like it, and fought in three wars. My youngest brother, Tom, committed suicide by jumping off a fourteen-story building; my French teacher ended her life with a pistol; my aunt was brutally raped in Atlanta; eight of my classmates at The Citadel were killed in Vietnam; and my best friend was killed in a car wreck in Mississippi last summer. Violence has always been a part of my world. I write about it in my books and make no apology to anyone. In Beach Music, I wrote about the Holocaust and lack the literary powers to make that historical event anything other than grotesque

.

People cuss in my books. People cuss in my real life. I cuss, especially at Citadel basketball games. I'm perfectly sure that Steve Shamblin and other teachers prepared their students well for any encounters with violence or profanity in my books just as Gene Norris prepared me for the profane language in The Catcher in the Rye forty-eight years ago.

The world of literature has everything in it, and it refuses to leave anything out. I have read like a man on fire my whole life because the genius of English teachers touched me with the dazzling beauty of language. Because of them I rode with Don Quixote and danced with Anna Karenina at a ball in St. Petersburg and lassoed a steer in Lonesome Dove and had nightmares about slavery in Beloved and walked the streets of Dublin in Ulysses and made up a hundred stories in The Arabian Nights and saw my mother killed by a baseball in A Prayer for Owen Meany. I've been in ten thousand cities and have introduced myself to a hundred thousand strangers in my exuberant reading career, all because I listened to my fabulous English teachers and soaked up every single thing those magnificent men and women had to give. I cherish and praise them and thank them for finding me when I was a boy and presenting me with the precious gift of the English language.

The school board of Charleston, West Virginia, has sullied that gift and shamed themselves and their community. You've now entered the ranks of censors, book-banners, and teacher-haters, and the word will spread. Good teachers will avoid you as though you had cholera. But here is my favorite thing: Because you banned my books, every kid in that county will read them, every single one of them. Because book- banners are invariably idiots, they don't know how the world works—but writers and English teachers do.

I salute the English teachers of Charleston, West Virginia, and send my affection to their students. West Virginians, you've just done what history warned you against—you've riled a Hatfield.

Sincerely,

Pat Conroy

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(October 26 is also the birthday of Napoleon Hill.)


Categories: Pat Conroy, Quotes of the day


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