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Archive for the tag “‘ Pat Conroy”

Do you have a favorite book the critics didn’t like?

I do. It’s Pat Conroy’s 1991 novel The Prince of Tides.

I first read the book soon after it was released. I’ve read it multiple times since then because–all I know to say here–is that it “speaks to me.”

Some reviews, like the one in Publishers Weekly, approved: “For sheer storytelling finesse, Conroy will have few rivals this season. His fourth novel is a seductive narrative, told with bravado flourishes, portentous foreshadowing, sardonic humor and eloquent turns of phrase. Like The Great Santini, it is the story of a destructive family relationship wherein a violent father abuses his wife and children.”

The New York Times’ assessment is probably closer to the way a lot of people see the novel now after the acclaim from the book and film versions of The Great Santini and The Lords of Discipline have faded into the the past: “In The Prince of Tides, the smart man and serious writer in Pat Conroy have been temporarily waylaid by the bullying monster of heavy-handed, inflated plot and the siren voice of Mother South at her treacherous worst – embroidered, sentimental, inexact, telling it over and over again as it never was.”

While I agree with both reviews, the siren voice of the novel still pulls me in toward the rocks of Conroy’s near-purple prose, sentimentality, and other manipulative techniques. All in all, The Great Santini and The Lords of Discipline are probably much better novels. Amazon calls The Prince of Tides a family saga. I call it southern Gothic.

In Prince of Tides, protagonist Tom Wingo has enough self pity for ten men. Yes, he has cause–in spades, I would say. He knows he’s been damaged beyond repair by his childhood along with his brother and sister. He knows the damage is obvious, so he deflates prospective criticisms of himself by mocking himself.

But, I still like the book. I’m less generous toward the movie which, frankly, needed a different cast even though the New York Times gave it a positive review. I like the book because there are grains of truth in Tom Wingo’s most pitiful and sarcastic comments, because Tom loves his more-damaged sister unconditionally, and because–when Conroy is at his best–his descriptions of the country along the South Carolina coast are the exceptional. (You can also see such descriptions in South of Broad which, fortunately, was less overwritten.)

Grain of Truth: “There is such a thing as too much beauty in a woman and it is often a burden as crippling as homeliness and far more dangerous. It takes much luck and integrity to survive the gift of perfect beauty, and its impermanence is its most cunning betrayal.” 

South Carolina“It was growing dark on this long southern evening, and suddenly, at the exact point her finger had indicated, the moon lifted a forehead of stunning gold above the horizon, lifted straight out of filigreed, light-intoxicated clouds that lay on the skyline in attendant veils. 

“Behind us, the sun was setting in a simultaneous congruent withdrawal and the river turned to flame in a quiet duel of gold….The new gold of moon astonishing and ascendant, he depleted gold of sunset extinguishing itself in the long westward slide, it was the old dance of days in the Carolina marshes, the breathtaking death of days before the eyes of children, until the sun vanished, its final signature a ribbon of bullion strung across the tops of water oaks.” 

I’ll probably read the novel again, but not for a while. Too much self-pity. Too much sugary sarcasm. I need some time to recuperate.


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Book Bits: Amazon’s lit mag, Ann Patchett, Steven Spielberg, ‘Sycamore Row’

halloweencatMy dentist often tells me that the more candy I eat, the better it is for his practice. “The candy companies help keep me in business,” he says. Perhaps he dispenses toothbrushes to trick-or-treaters along with a handful of good, tooth-breaking hard candy. I wonder what would happen if I handed out a book with every mini-Snickers bar. Would the kids read while they ate or would I find the books strewn alongside of the road between my house and the edge of the neighborhood?

Here are a few links you can follow while eating enough sweet stuff to keep your dentist smiling:

  1. News: Two women who survived Cleveland kidnapping plan book, by Kim Palmer – “Two of the three Cleveland women who survived years of imprisonment after being kidnapped by school bus driver Ariel Castro will collaborate on a book about the ordeal with two Washington Post writers.” Reuters
  2. harperlogoNews: HarperCollins Begins Selling eBooks Directly to Readers, by Michael Kozlowski – “Major Publishers tend to rely on companies such as Amazon, Kobo, Apple and Barnes and Noble to sell the digital editions of their books. Not content to exclusively buy into this model Harper Collins is now bucking the trend by selling eBooks directly to customers  and launching a dedicated e-Reader app for Android and iOS.” Good E Reader
  3. Quotation: “Being born into this family was the greatest thing that ever happened to me.” It just took me a long time to realize it and 40 years to write about it.” – Pat Conroy in a BookPage interview about “Surviving Santini”
  4. lastanimalReview: “The Last Animal.” by Abby Geni – “A rare short story collection that’s as coherent and powerful as a well-constructed novel. It begs to be read straight through rather than sampled casually. Although each story stands on its own, as an ensemble, their brilliance becomes apparent. They build quietly on one another, examining the same dark little corners of the human experience from vastly different angles.”  Shelf Awareness
  5. Feature: What 20 years of best sellers say about what we read, by Bob Minzesheimer and Anthony DeBarros – “What we read and how we read it has changed a lot in two decades.”  USA Today
  6. patchettInterview: Ann Patchett: How I Write, by Noah Charney – “The ‘Bel Canto’ and ‘State of Wonder’ author, whose new collection of memoirs and essays is This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, talks about her friendship with Elizabeth Gilbert and Donna Tartt, the short story renaissance, and owning an independent bookstore.”  Daily Beast
  7. News: ‘The Bully Pulpit’ Film Adaptation To Be Led By Steven Spielberg & Doris Kearns Goodwin – “Steven Spielberg and Doris Kearns Goodwin are reteaming after their Oscar-winning collaboration on ‘Lincoln.'”  The Huffington Post
  8. News: Facebook May Start Tracking Your Cursor as You Browse the Site, by Ellis Hamburger – “For some time Facebook has studied your likes, comments, and clicks to help create better ads and new products, but soon, the company might also track the location of your cursor on screen.”  Editor & Publisher
  9. dukeReview: “Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington,” by Terry Teachout, reviewed by Jerry Harkavy – “Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal drama critic and author of a critically acclaimed biography of Louis Armstrong, penetrates that veil with a portrait of a talented musician obsessed with a quest for respectability who was evasive and deceptive in his dealings with band members and other associates. Even his closest friends could only guess at what he really thought.”  The Denver Post
  10. Commentary: Why is the Ebook Business So Out of Sync with Consumers? by Edward Nawotka – “Let’s face it, do you really own your ebooks? Even as someone whose day-to-day job is covering the book business as a journalist, I’m not entirely confident of what I think I know. Or as they in the American South, where I live, ‘I can’t say I rightly know.'”  Publishing Perspectives
  11. fallingupwardReview: “Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air,” by Richard Holmes, reviewed by Cathrine Hollis – “Biographer Richard Holmes (‘The Age of Wonder’) has long been fascinated by the Romantics and science, and ‘Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air’ blends his two lifelong passions with a third: ballooning. In some ways his most personal book, Falling Upwards documents more than two centuries of experiments and explorations in aeronautics, anchored with a dash of autobiography.”  Book Page
  12. Essay: Quick: What’s the Past Tense of “Pet”? – On regular and irregular verbs, by Jessica Love – “I posed this question on my Facebook wall not long ago in response to my husband’s insistence that I was “saying it wrong.” Answers split evenly between pet and petted; confidence levels ran the gamut. Some friends mentioned that the more they thought about their response, the less certain they felt. A few eventually wanted to change their minds.”  The American Scholar
  13. sycamorerowReview: “Sycamore Row,” by John Grisham, reviewed by Stuart Shiffman – “A prolific writer such as Grisham always runs the risk of turning out a clunker. But he has the knack for finding topical themes, inventive plot twists and the appropriate criticism of the legal profession to make his novels entertaining and page-turning…. SYCAMORE ROW will not disappoint fans.”  Book Reporter
  14. News: Amazon Publishing Introduces Day One—A Literary Journal for the Digital Age – “Amazon Publishing today announced Day One, a weekly digital publication dedicated to short fiction—including work from debut authors and stories from around the world translated into English—and poetry. Day One will showcase one writer and one poet per week. ”  Amazon 

“Book Bits” is compiled my Malcolm R. Campbell, author of contemporary fantasies including “The Betrayed.”

PRE-RELEASE: Or your copy at Smashwords

PRE-RELEASE: Order your copy at Smashwords

Book Bits: GoodReads turmoil, Pat Conroy, ‘Archangel,’ Eleanor Catton

BookBitsAs a reader, I am discouraged about the turmoil at GoodReads. I would like to be able to go there and read fairly written and objective reviews about the books I’m thinking about buying.

I don’t want to read fake reviews by readers who lavish sight-unseen praise on their friends’ books as a matter of course. I also don’t want to read one-star reviews by readers who have a grudge against certain genres and certain authors and in many cases, haven’t even read the books. I hope the site’s management will find a smoother way of sorting out the problem than it has up to now. (Item 9)

Here are today’s writing links:

  1. News: ‘Santini’ writer Pat Conroy has an offer for Robert Duvall, by Bob Minzesheimer – “He’s offering “for free” the memoir’s film rights to Duvall, 82, and his three co-stars. All they have to do is reprise their roles in a non-fiction sequel about what Conroy calls ‘this ridiculous family I was born into.'”  USA Today
  2. archangelReview: “Archangel,” by Andrea Barrett, reviewed by James Orbesen – “Andrea Barrett, winner of the National Book Award and author of the new collection ‘Archangel,’ attempts not only to tell a story but also to communicate with the reader. Comprised of several longer short stories, ‘Archangel’ is a dispersed narrative that features characters, some fictional and others not, cropping up again and again in different places and in different circumstances. Stretching from a lonely island off the East Coast, to a torpedoed freighter in the North Atlantic, to the scattered American bivouacs around the Russian city of Archangelsk, ‘Archangel’ has scope.”  Bookslut
  3. Viewpoint: Public Letter on Standardized Testing from Authors and Illustrators of Books for Children and Youth – “We the undersigned children’s book authors and illustrators write to express our concern for our readers, their parents and teachers. We are alarmed at the negative impact of excessive school testing mandates, including your Administration’s own initiatives, on children’s love of reading and literature. Recent policy changes by your Administration have not lowered the stakes. On the contrary, requirements to evaluate teachers based on student test scores impose more standardized exams and crowd out exploration.” FairTest
  4. simonNews: Simon & Schuster to Launch Science Fiction, Fantasy Imprint, by Jim Milliot – “Simon & Schuster is preparing to up its presence in the science fiction, fantasy and horror market with the launch of a new imprint dedicated to the category. The as yet unnamed imprint will be overseen by Jon Anderson, executive v-p and publisher of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, but will, S&S said, publish books “for readers of all ages.” Anderson told PW the audience for the new imprint is seen as “YA and above.””  Publishers Weekly
  5. highmoonInterview: Patricia Chapple Wright (“High Moon Over the Amazon”), with Barbara J. King – In answering why she wrote about South American monkeys, Wright said,’High Moon’ is the unique story of how a simple curiosity about my pet monkey’s behavior led to my lifelong obsession with the wilds from where it came. The book describes my struggles as a young single mother venturing to a remote jungle of the Amazon with a toddler, on a quest many deemed impossible.”  NPR
  6. Essay: God’s Workshop, by sam Apple – “Love, love, love the Noah chapter. My only concern is that there’s an awful lot of “telling.” Is there a way to do more “showing” so that we can see Noah experiencing 40 days and nights on a boat with two of every living beast on Earth? That had to have been crazy?! Like, where did they all go to the bathroom? ” Slate
  7. News: Romania’s ReadForward Angles to Be “Facebook for Education,” by Daniel Kalder – “Bucharest-based developer Read Forward has produced original ebooks, luxury digital editions of classics and is now moving into education, with fully interactive HTML5 textbooks.”  Publishing Perspectives
  8. lionseekerReview: “The Lion Seeker,” by Kenneth Bonert, reviewed by Kenneth Champeon – “As the subject matter demands, The Lion Seeker is an ambitious novel. Sometimes its ambition gets the better of it: Bonert’s facility with and delight in language, including the incorporation of Afrikaans slang and what the characters call “Jewish,” can disrupt the storytelling. This becomes less so as the novel progresses—Bonert’s Joycean aspirations take a back seat to his compelling historical tale, and the reader is less required to peer through thickets of linguistic virtuosity to see Isaac courting a girl or cuckolding an abusive colleague.”  Bookpage
  9. Commentary: How Amazon and Goodreads could lose their best readers, by Laura Miller – “A small but growing faction of longtime, deeply involved Goodreads members are up in arms about recent changes to the site’s enforcement of its policies on what members are permitted to say when reviewing books, and many of them blame the crackdown on the Amazon deal. ”  Salon
  10. on the list

    on the list

    Lists: 11 Psychological Stories That Will Make You Worry for Your Sanity, by Jason Diamond – “There are books that simply scare you, and then there are books that actually get into your head. Maybe you call them thrillers; others deal with characters whose point of view might be distorted for whatever reason, and some just build you up for hundreds of pages only to reward you with an “Oh my God” moment that you won’t be able to get out of your head for days. Since this is the time of year that we tend to go for things that give us instant scary payoff, here are ten great books that go a bit deeper than just giving us chills.” Flavorwire

  11. How To: Biweekly Versus Semiweekly, by Mignon Fogarty – “I have some friends who work in New York, and a couple of years ago they received a notice that said they were going to be paid biweekly from now on. The problem was that nobody could tell what ‘biweekly’ meant, and their Human Resources department reported being inundated with calls from confused employees. ”  Grammar Girl
  12. Catton


    Interview: Eleanor Catton: ‘Male writers get asked what they think, women what they feel,’ by Charlotte Higgins – “The 2013 Man Booker-prize winner on the unfair treatment of female writers and why her book The Luminaries riled male critics of a certain age.” The Guardian

  13. Feature: Twain to Tartt, a long tradition of author uniforms, by John McMurtrie – “Tartt’s author photo shows her wearing her trademark crisp black jacket and white dress shirt, an androgynous look — topped off with bobbed hair — that she’s had since the publication of her breakthrough novel, ‘The Secret History,’ in 1992. This got us wondering about other author uniforms, as it were. Below is a gallery of notables. Can you think of others?” San Francisco Chronicle
  14. News: World Book Night U.S. Announces 2014 Book Picks – “Following Wednesday night’s announcement of the titles for the April 23, 2014, celebration of World Book Night in the U.S., the application process has opened for those who would like to be part of the event’s army of 25,000 volunteer book givers.”  Bookselling This Week

LandBetweenCover“Book Bits” is compiled by Malcolm R. Campbell, author of contemporary fantasies, paranormal short stories and folktales, including “The Land Between the Rivers.”

“The Land Between the Rivers” begins where the Seminole Creation Myth ends and imagines life in the Florida swamps for Panther, Snake Bird, and Black Bear at the dawn of time.

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