Award winning ‘The Prince of Tides’ author dies at age 70
By KIRAN MALIK-KHAN, Connect Contributor
How do you pay tribute to a writer whose words were soul-permeating? How do you say anything that would capture his greatness? You can’t. You only try. Pat Conroy, a treasure of American literature, the man who wrote lyrical prose, and masterpieces like The Prince Of Tides, Beach Music, and The Great Santini passed away on March 4, 2016. There will never be another like him.
A giant of southern literature, Conroy was 70. He succumbed to pancreatic cancer, surrounded by “family and friends in his Beaufort (South Carolina) home overlooking the marshes he so loved,” said his official Facebook page, which the author maintained himself. He was diagnosed a little over two weeks ago on February 15, and this is what he shared:
Hey out there,
I celebrated my 70th birthday in October and realized that I’ve spent my whole writing life trying to find out who I am and I don’t believe I’ve even come close. It was in Beaufort in sight of a river’s sinuous turn, and the movements of its dolphin-proud tides that I began to discover myself and where my life began at fifteen.
I have recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. With the help of the wonderful people at M.D. Anderson I intend to fight it hard. I am grateful to all my beloved readers, my friends and my family for their prayers. I owe you a novel and I intend to deliver it.
I wait for that novel that’ll never be. I wait for the balm of his words that’ll never be. This soul-scathing loss will leave an unfillable void for millions of his fans like me. I first fell in love with his memorable novels in high school. The Prince of Tides (1986) didn’t leave my side, and The Water is Wide (1972), The Lords of Discipline,(1980) The Great Santini (1976), and Beach Music (1995) and many others followed, the first and last ones on this list left me mesmerized forever by the power of his prose that made my breath catch and release incessantly.
A regular on the New York Times best-seller list, Conroy’s books The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini were made into Oscar-nominated films. His tumultuous childhood living under the shadow of an abusive father, shaped his writing. The Marine Corps fighter pilot regularly hit Conroy’s mom, and all of his seven children, Pat was the oldest.
“I hated my father long before I knew there was an English word for hate,” Conroy always said.
Yet, the diamond that was his gentle soul despite being mined in the hate of abuse – triumphed. He wrote books that illustrated the downfall of abuse, of how it damages humans. “One of the greatest gifts you can get as a writer,” he once said, “is to be born into an unhappy family.”
I don’t believe it. Because, only five years ago, he admitted to still carry the “freight of (his father’s) abuse.” Nobody wants to be unhappy even if it creates fodder for your books. Nobody wants to believe “my wound is geography. It is also my anchorage, my port of call.” Beautiful lines from The Prince of Tides.
I mourn you. I mourn the poetry that was your prose. Good bye, Godspeed, Rest in peace, Pat Conroy. Heaven just found its master storyteller.