like no one else

Pat Conroy

Writer Pat Conroy, who died Friday night, had a way with words that can only be described as an incredible gift. Perhaps no one more aptly painted word pictures of love, loss, beauty, yearning, pain, grief and aspiration.

Whether fiction or memoir, Conroy could tell a story like no one else. Just read his ebullient description of the inimitable author and chef Nathalie Dupree, the subject of the first chapter of his cookbook, The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of My Life:

“Nathalie’s voice is deep and musical and seductive. She possesses the rare ability to be both maddening and hilarious in the course of a single sentence. Her character is a shifting, ever-changing thing, and she reinvents herself all over again every couple of years. In one way, she seems the same, yet you are aware she is in the process of complete transformation. When she tells about her life, you could swear she was speaking about a hundred women, not just one.”

As a tribute to his immense talent, what better way to honor is memory than to share some of his pearls of wisdom in words, his power and glory:

“Without music, life is a journey through a desert.” — Beach Music

“A recipe is a story that ends with a good meal.” — The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of my Life

“The most powerful words in English are ‘Tell me a story,’ words that are intimately related to the complexity of history, the origins of language, the continuity of the species, the taproot of our humanity, our singularity, and art itself.” — My Reading Life

“I’m not the lovable, wonderful, tenderhearted grandfather that you read about in books. I’m grouchy and curmudgeonly, and I have a lot of rules.” — Interview with Pat Conroy, Atlanta Magazine, Sept. 30, 2013

“Happiness is an accident of nature, a beautiful and flawless aberration.” ― The Lords of Discipline

“There is no teacher more discriminating or transforming than loss.” — My Losing Season: A Memoir

“I’ve never had anyone’s approval, so I’ve learned to live without it.” ― The Great Santini

“My wound is geography. It is also my anchorage, my port of call.” ― The Prince of Tides

“Her laughter was a shiny thing, like pewter flung high in the air.” — Beach Music

“It’s an easy state to love and a hard one to leave. But, on occasion, South Carolina can rise up and steal your soul with a moment so magical it seems like an exorcism. It has happened to me dozens of times since I’ve taken up residence here. The sight of the sun setting in all its gold-rimmed majesty over a great salt marsh in Beaufort County is as restorative as a shot of sour-mash bourbon. The shaded streets south of Broad in Charleston can bring even Europeans to their knees. The gardens of Middleton Plantation in the springtime make you ache with pleasure. Pawleys Island is the most delightful, wondrous place in South Carolina and I envy any child who gets to grow up there.” — Introduction to State of the Heart: South Carolina Writers on the Places They Love, 2013.

“There is no teacher more discriminating or transforming than loss.”— My Losing Season: A Memoir

“A library could show you everything if you knew where to look.” — My Reading Life

Donald Patrick Conroy, 1945-2016. Rest in peace.

Editor's Note: this story first appeared at Charleston Currents. The image of Pat Conroy was taken by Jennifer Hitchcock (promotional photo).
Andy Brack

Andy Brack

Andy Brack is a syndicated columnist in South Carolina and the publisher of Brack, who holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, also publishes a twice-weekly newsletter about good news in the Charleston area, A former U.S. Senate press secretary and reporter, Brack has a national reputation as a communications strategist and Internet pioneer. Brack also is president and chairman of the Center for a Better South, a nonprofit regional think tank. Brack received a bachelor’s degree from Duke University. He, his wife, two daughters and dogs live in Charleston, S.C.