Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Boo

Pat Conroy’s recent decision to release all of his books in e-book format included one little bonus for his longtime readers.  The Boo, Conroy’s first, and sometimes hardest-to-find, book was included in the package deal.  This might not sound like a big deal to casual readers of Conroy’s better known novels and memoirs, but for many Conroy collectors it offers a great opportunity to finally complete their Pat Conroy collections.

The Boo is said to be a novel and, despite its rather awkward construction, it is probably best classified that way.  But there can be little doubt that it is also a very personal piece of writing in which Conroy reveals much about himself and the man who became a father-figure to him during his years at the Citadel.  This is Conroy’s tribute to the school’s chief disciplinarian, Lt. Colonel (and Assistant Commandant) T.N. Courvoisie, a man who took on a larger-than-life persona for the cadets of his era.  That Courvoisie was so poorly treated by The Citadel at the end of his career only makes the book that much more poignant. 

The book itself is a collection of letters, formal disciplinary incident reports and student responses to the reports, primitively drawn cartoons, poems, photographs, memorabilia, excerpts from the school press, and character studies involving student run-ins with Lt. Colonel Courvoisie (affectionately known to his “lambs” as The Boo).  For those less familiar with military terminology, Conroy also includes a lengthy glossary of military slang used at the Citadel by students and faculty alike.  Further blurring the truth vs. fiction aspects of The Boo, Conroy chose to include a lengthy list of the colonel’s favorite students.  If these are not the names of actual students, the lists serve little purpose; if they are real names, they must have been aimed directly at what Conroy perceived would be his likeliest audience for the book.

The Boo does not work particularly well as a traditional novel because of its jarring structure, but it does work very well as a tribute to a man who seems to have been truly loved by the majority of students that knew him.  While the book does not represent Pat Conroy’s finest work, it will be of great interest to those who have read the rest of his output.  Pat Conroy, the author whose work so many have grown to love over the past several decades, is in there somewhere.  The fun is trying to find him amidst the clutter of The Boo.

Rated at: 3.0

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)


  1. This makes me definitely want to expand my Canadian horizons to some southern reading. I just started Conroy's My Reading Life, based on your recommendation, and so far I'm liking him as a person enough to include some of his positions in my New Year's reading resolutions. BTW, loving the new template!

  2. Martha, "Prince of Tides" is still my favorite Pat Conroy book - very Southern gothic kind of thing - but all of his novels are very good. I do hope you enjoy his writing style,