Saturday, March 5, 2016

Pat Conroy - RIP

Pat Conroy has died from pancreatic cancer. He was 70 years old.

He was one of the most popular American authors of the second half of 20th century, thanks to several Southern-themed novels and the prolific nature of them being adapted into feature films.

He started off as an English teacher in South Carolina, including an one-year run at a public school on Daufuskie Island. He parlayed his experiences into his second novel The Water Is Wide, which would later be made into the film Conrack, starring Jon Voight as Conroy's stand-in.

He broke out nationally with The Great Santini, a semi-autobiographical book about the tumultuous relationship between a military brat and his abusive father. It's popularity and graphic nature caused a massive falling out within his family, especially with his own dad who stubbornly tried to refute the stigma from then on. This book too was made into a film, earning Robert Duvall an Oscar nomination of his phenomenal portrayal.

His next book, The Lords of Discipline, drew on his memories of being a cadet at The Citadel, a strict military college in South Carolina. Though fictional, it too drew much uproar among brass and his fellow graduates for its unflattering portrayal of the school and its claim of a secret society within the school who endorsed hazing. Again, the book was made into a film, this time with David Keith as the central role.

In 1986, he wrote was is arguably his most popular and enduring novel The Prince of Tides. The story of unemployed teacher Tom Wingo who ventures to New York City after his sister's latest suicide attempt, and bonds in many ways with her psychiatrist, won much acclaim. Its popularity grew intensively when Barbara Streisand directed and stared in its film adaptation, with Nick Nolte as Wingo. Hailed in 1991 as one the best films of the year, it infamously caused a stir at that year's Oscars when Streisand wasn't given a Best Directing nomination and it was completely shut out. The Prince of Tides would later be famously parodied in a great episode of The Simpsons but also helped partially inspire The Sopranos.

Though he drew notices with his two subsequent fictional novels, 1995's Beach Music and 2009's South of Broad, he never was able to rise back up to his prominence with the public, especially since they weren't made into films.

I am writing out this obituary for Pat Conroy not just for his brilliance in writing but for what he meant to my personal life. My family utterly adored his work; The Prince of Tides was/is practically the Bible for my parents. Though we shared the same last name, myself and my family would occasionally joke with friends and other people at how we are somehow related to him.

He will be missed.

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