Author Pat Conroy Dies At 70
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Pat Conroy, adopted son of the South Carolina low country has died. The novelist who wrote nearly a dozen books, including "The Prince Of Tides" and "The Great Santini," was 70. Just last month, he announced he had pancreatic cancer.
Conroy's books sold more than 20 million copies worldwide, and four of them were made into movies. "The Prince Of Tides" stared Nick Nolte and Barbra Streisand and earned Conroy an Oscar nomination for his work on the screenplay.
In 2010, Pat Conroy joined Scott Simon on this program to talk about his memoir called "My Reading Life." In the book, Conroy remembers his mother, Peg, who told him books could change lives - that they were like friends that could be counted on in a childhood spent moving from Marine base to Marine base.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
PAT CONROY: What I remember about her from the very earliest time of my life is her reading to me before I went to bed. And she had a great tone - a warm style, a terrific Southern accent. And she read us lots of poetry.
The boy stood on the burning deck. The highwayman came riding, riding, riding. I can still hear her voice.
She read - "Gone with the Wind" was the first novel she ever read to me. In her genius in reading that novel was being able to take players in that novel and compare them to people in our own life.
Melanie Wilkes was my tacky Aunt Helen (ph), who lived in Orlando. And she'd have Frank Kennedy as my Uncle Joe (ph), who lived in Jacksonville. Naturally, she took on the role of Scarlett O'Hara. And that swashbuckling figure of a man was Rhett Butler - was my father, who was fighting in warplanes in Korea at that time.
And she gave me, you know, I think my first clues that there was a relationship between life and art that was very close. And you just had to pay attention to find it.
SCOTT SIMON, BYLINE: I have to tell you, Pat - and I say this being a Chicagoan like your father - to some of us, "Gone With The Wind" is about the death of a civilization that richly deserved to die.
CONROY: Of course. It is. And it did. But here's what I like about it, Scott.
CONROY: A girl from the place who lost outwrote all you Yankee boys and girls who wrote about the victors.
SIMON: As long as we keep the victories literary (laughter), I guess that's all right.
CONROY: You don't want it to be politically, and you don't want slavery. And I was just surprised when I went back to read it how extraordinarily good it was.
SIMON: You know, Pat, it's inescapable that - obviously, I mean, you've written a book about - you've written, I think in a number of places, including this book, that when you were growing up, you were - you thought your father might kill you and your family. And you were actually glad when he went off to war because it meant...
CONROY: I used to pray for war against places like Vatican City. I didn't care where it was, but if it would get him in the sky over some country that wasn't near me...
SIMON: Yeah. And did that - so therefore, did you find a kind of refuge in reading?
CONROY: There's no question. Dad would not hit you if he saw you reading. He thought you were studying. And it was the one time - you know, one place you could go to get away from his fists. And it worked every time.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Novelist Pat Conroy talking with NPR's Scott Simon in 2010. Conroy died yesterday at his home in South Carolina.