Don’t for a minute kid yourself. Avid readers have a personal relationship (albeit a one-sided one) with the authors they read over several decades. Sometimes we know more about the lives of our favorites, and what makes them tick, than we do about most friends we see in the real world. The best writers reveal themselves to us over time, layer by layer, in their work and we often see ourselves reflected in their words. A true kinship develops, a strong bond that can last a lifetime – theirs and ours.
For me, Pat Conroy is one of those special people even though I came to know his work only when I stumbled upon a paperback copy of The Prince of Tides in 1987. I may have been slow coming to Pat Conroy’s fiction, but I can still remember the excitement I felt while reading that novel. I knew – immediately – that Pat Conroy was going to be someone whose work I would read and re-read for the rest of my life. I was so excited about the book that I did something I had never done before; I started talking to friends and relatives about it. I even purchased 15 copies of the paperback and handed them out as little Christmas presents that year. But the funny thing? I’m as excited to get a new Pat Conroy novel or memoir in my hands today as I was on that day almost three decades ago.
Now I hear that Pat Conroy is fighting pancreatic cancer but promises to complete the novel he’s currently working on. And I hurt for my literary friend and wish I could tell him how much he has meant to me for the last 28 years. I wish I could tell him how many people around the world are rooting for him as he endures what comes next in his life. I wish I could tell him just how much he has contributed to our understanding of human nature and the world we live in.
I wish I could tell him how much we love him.