Sunday, November 24, 2013

Soixante-neuf and an Open Letter to Pat Conroy

Soixante-neuf…Sixty-nine. As much as I flirt with alternatives, I end up wearing a navy blazer sixty-nine percent of the time. Rain or shine, summer or winter, it’s a navy damn blazer for me. And I’ve just added yet another one to the fold.
Ok, I’m now off the hook for positing something about clothes so let’s move on to my open letter to Pat.

Dear Pat,

My buddy Lou owns a house on Fripp around the corner from you and says that he sees you from time to time at CVS. He says that you look ok but my selfish ass wants to admonish you to get crackin’ on another novel. Fast like. Enough already with these interim books.

Don’t get me wrong, Pat. I’m digging all these little placeholder books that you’ve published and I’m sure the cash flow from them is stronger than wolf nookie and really, who doesn’t fancy cash and a steady flow of it? And wolf nookie? I don’t know. But I’ll stand by the metaphor.

And these interim Conroy books aren’t where you want your home-stretch legacy to live. In your heart of hearts you too know that another Beach Music or Prince of Tides is what we need. Come on Pat, we need another novel.
I loved My Reading Life. I really did. It opened my eyes once again to the tortured genius of Thomas Wolfe. And My Losing Season was ok, too. Truth? I’ve read every f_cking word you’ve published. I even gave My Reading Life to one of my surrogate dad’s—the guy who hired me on at a Swiss Pharma company when I was a kid.
Photo borrowed from my buddy Reggie Darling
He’s the guy who first gave me Mrs. Whaley and Her Charleston Garden and told me that there were as many line management lessons to be learned therein as there were gardening tips. Most people wouldn’t a got it. But I did and you’d a gotten it too. Like me, he made his way into an industry that provided well for him but his true passions were elsewhere. He has an English degree from Carolina and I’m convinced that he hired me because he saw in me the same right-brained energy that he loved about himself. And like me, he never had a dad.
And Pat, Flo just made me aware of The Death of Santini. I could order it from Amazon but it won’t get to me till Tuesday. And I can’t wait that long. I’m gonna pay more for it and pick it up at Barnes and Noble so that I can read it tonight. I’ll sponge it up because for some reason these books….with their pathos confessed, violations reported, unrequited whatevers, and the frail treaties that at least some of you assholes were  able to cobble with your dads still draws me in like a moth to flame. You’d think I’d get enough of this formulaic caca but the half-life of any insights gained is for me a nanosecond. And the close-that-hole-in-my-heart unguent schmear offered therein wears off before I finish these kinda shitty books. Don’t be angry, Pat. It’s me, not you.
Photo Source
You might think that my pithiness is uncalled for and my bitterness should be better managed by now. On the other hand, I bet not. Because it’s obvious that like me with my dad, you are still trying to work out your shit with Colonel Conroy, even after the guy co-signed books with you amidst your tentative peace.
Photo Source
And the record shows a few photos of you and your dad, post Great Santini where he looks smug and self-satisfied and you look like you always do. In every photograph…frail and tentative. You’ve never lost that look you know. Neither have I. The frail tentativeness of your gangly adolescence is simply replaced fifty years later with an edematous version of the same. And I’m right behind you old sport. Genetics keep me from being as Humpty Dumpty gelatinous as you but my nose is getting bigger and purple-er by the month. So I’ll read your damn book but what I want to read is one of those big-ass novels of yours with imagery that blasts off the page and wraps around my head in ways that make me forget the rest of the world for at least an hour or two. 
Just so you’re confident that it’s me, not you...and just so you know that you aren't alone in your working shit out with daddy pathos, here are a pile of other books that I’ve read and re-read on the subject. You and I aren’t special, buddy. After the death of my friend’s dad and my listening to Dickey read his Buckhead Boys poem over and over, I re-read Summer of Deliverance in one sitting week before last. Dickey at fils et al is a bell ringer and the pathos, while not as physical as the ass whippings that Colonel Conroy put on you, are just as strong. My dad was more Dickey than your dad Conroy but was probably more of a physical coward than either.
Flusser led me to Merkin and then to Frazier. I’ve read Another Man’s Poison countless times and for some reason I tend to keep this little book in my reference pile. The sartorial pearls are intriguing but the examples of Frazier’s writing are what's so damn stellar. But then there’s his broken marriage and his protracted house of cards financial ruinous state while still deeply loving his two cast here and there amidst divorce drama sons. It’s this spore in the story that mighta fuelled the four hour dinner I had with one of his sons a couple of years ago. Of all the failed dads in this load of ADG drivel, I think Frazier showed that he loved his boys better than the rest of 'em. And that's a low-ass bar I'm setting. Let me tell you.
And God knows that the Wolff brothers might’ve had the wildest story to tell about dads. Narcissistic sociopaths rarely make for good fathers. But damn…my goodness, the adventures they can take you on.
Pat, I really wish that Blake Bailey’s Cheever had been three hundred pages shorter. Of all these dad pathos books, this is the one that had me saying every other page… “this is my dad, this was my life”. And Federico Cheever…Fred Cheever seemed to be me. After I finished the book, I even tracked down Fred Cheever and was going to send him an email telling him that I’d lived his same journey. But then I thought better of it. He seems to have put all this junk to rest better than most of us.

So Pat, thanks for the new book. I’m sure I’ll hoover it up in a sitting or two. But please, no more of this shit till we get another novel. Now let me slip on a navy blazer and head over to Barnes and Noble.

Onward. Sixty-nine percent of the damn time.


And what the hell? How 'bout some Color Him Father by the Winstons.


LPC said...

Reading this is like overhearing a conversation between pre-teen boys in the back seat of the car - alien but very sweet.

Fathers are just guys, to us daughters, unless they are actually evil. That's how it should be. And when our fathers are old we love them dearly.

So hold out hope for L, right? And you could always write the damn book yourself;).

Anonymous said...

Dolly Pardon said we were poor but did not know it. Well, with TV, radio, advertising trying to keep up with the Jones, suburbia etc. Some are poor and know it, but don't like it and then there is hell to pay. Credit card debt disposable income --money to throw away -- who has that? How could the military allow child abuse, oh that's right tail hook, generals cheating with their biographers etc. we only hear about the super egos. How many base exchanges have low prices because of low salaries of enlisted and crappy base housing. Mr Conroy has been interviewed and speaks of a grammar school teacher most fondly; and I enjoyed his essays in his cook book-- from which I learned much about my fav-o-rite chefs!!!!!

Anonymous said...

You just might get your wish!
This [undated] from the lips/pen/keyboard of PC:

"I want to write a novel one day and tell about the lives of American men and women in the Seventies and how they related to each other and, more significantly, how they failed to relate to each other...I want to tell about what I learned during my year of grief. I want to say in the book that in the Seventies I found myself locked in the dilemma of the American male...I will try to tell honestly what it was like for a woman to have a relationship with me and what I was thinking and how I was feeling toward her and how it seemed like a very bad thing to love me."


MaryBeth said...

I know this is going to be a crazy comment but your black/dark background gives me an instant headache. Could you change it to white or cream or anything that isn't dark?

A Lovely Inconsequence said...

You make me want to hug you. And you are making me understand my brothers better: both were unloved by our dad.

Anonymous said...

"pre-teen boy"

Holy cow, coming from LPC, take that for the triumph of excavation that it really IS, Max! BEAUTIFUL!

As much as I hate to disappoint you, your book has already been written [see Maxminimus' archives]. It's true; you've already done a major part of the work. Only thing left is the sorting.

May I suggest crab cakes at some point over Thanksgivng weekend?


Anonymous said...

LIke so many people, I have a friend of a friend connection to Conroy. He is by all reports a great fellow. I heard him speak at a funeral and was deeply moved. I hear he is trouble at book signings because he stops and talks with every person. He is a charmer. But I gave up reading his two hundred page stories swimming in a five hundred page book when I saw the line in The Lords of Discipline: I could smell the puissance of their callow maggotry. CALLOW MAGGOTRY? Dude, what other kind is there? Re-read Styron, start in on Updike, go back to Faulkner as a middle aged man. But leave Conroy to others. You don't have time for all of that now.

Richard M said...

Frazier raised his sons right! As we both know, Dustin.

Kathie Truitt said...

Well, I'm sure as heck not Pat Conroy but if you're in town this Saturday come on over to my book signing at St. Elmo's Coffee Pub on Mt. Vernon Ave in Del Ray. Saturday, the 3oth from 2-4. Would love to see you!

GSL said...

Very well done ADG. I've yet to cross paths with Conroy though from what I gather his is the style of writing/storytelling that would affect me in a similar fashion. I'm now getting reacquainted with my much younger (half) sister (recently engaged) who lives in Charleston which will be prompting long overdue visits and a little Conroy primer might also be a good fit.
I share your high opinion of LPC but her "pre-teen" boys comment is wide off the mark though I think we know what she meant.
I would have a similar letter directed at Martin Amis as I think all the novels I've read fall far short of his great talent. Now that he's on our side of the pond (Brooklyn), I can sense a magnum opus soon awaits. A very happy Thanksgiving to you & the little cutie pie.

Anonymous said...

Have you read Pat Conroy's cookbook? I was given it several years ago. I did not know who he was, nor had I seen any movies based on his books. It is a cookbook/memoir. I really enjoyed it, and made the coconut cake which was fab.

PrepinTX said...

Reading Anonymous's comment above from 10:52pm on November 24, are we sure Max and Pat Conroy aren't, in fact, the same person?

~Beth Ann

Anonymous said...

Here ya go, Max, breaking Conroy news:


LPC said...

Flo! I'm subscribed to comments on this post and so happy to see you! I have wondered how you are, and glad to hear from you. xoxox.

ADG said...

Glad y'all reconnected courtesy of this old pile of drivel!

And yes. I'm fine. So is LFG.

Anonymous said...

LPC, it's been a long road! After shaming myself repeatedly on your blog, I enrolled in a 12 step Blurting recovery program, did well for a time, relapsed, hit bottom, pulled back up again and have been visiting Amid Privilege under the shadow of a nom de plume. In fact I left a little ditty there for you yesterday but upon hitting the publish button, felt immediately certain I'd blurted inappropriately, swore to never open my keyboard's mouth again, a terrible cycle. Happy Belated Anniversary to you and Mr. Lucky, still haven't gotten over THAT DRESS! xoxo to you right back! Flo

Max, we love you and LFG madly!

LPC said...

There was never not one word uttered that warranted shame, Flo. I'm just happy to hear you're ok. <3