“My Exaggerated Life” book review

October 26, 1945 – March 4, 2016

If you’re a Pat Conroy fan, this book is a “must-read.”

Author Katherine Clark logged 200 hours of interviews with our “Prince of Scribes” to put together a biography that might make some fans squirm with its brutal honesty and candor.

My delay in reading and reviewing it was because I assumed it would follow a typical biography structure.

I mistakenly assumed there wouldn’t be much new material.

Instead, this book reads as if Pat Conroy is sitting on the front porch with you, baring his soul while the two of you share a glass of iced tea.

What I loved about this book –

  • the contributions of his psychologist, Dr. Marion O’Neill
  • Conroy’s insistence that his biography shows the good with the bad
  • it’s unfiltered
  • learning about The Citadel vs. Shannon Faulkner (behind the scenes)
  • the description of his enduring, life-long friendships
  • reading about his writing habits, requirements and quirks
SC Book Festival, Columbia, SC, 2013

Clark breaks down Conroy’s life into six sections:

  • Beaufort, South Carolina: 1967-1973
  • Atlanta, Georgia: 1973-1981
  • Rome/Atlanta/Rome: 1981-1988
  • Atlanta/San Francisco: 1988-1992
  • Fripp Island/Beaufort, South Carolina: 1992-2016
  • Epilogue: Beaufort, South Carolina

His life is laid bare and to his credit, nothing is off-limits.

“Here is where my life as a writer has been unlike anybody I have ever met. My readers are extraordinary. . .It’s been the singular, most wonderful, fabulous part of my writing life. What I wanted to be as a writer, I wanted to be a complete brave man that I am not in my real life . . .When I sat down to write, I wanted to talk to that god of the wildness of poetry, and I wanted that voice in me if I had it to speak to people like you. And I thought if your lives were anything like mine, you were suffering. You were going through things I have gone through. Do you doubt yourself constantly? Which I do. I have doubted myself every day of my life. You go through life struggling for happiness, for joy, for anything you can to help you get through life at that day. . .What I want for myself on this night, and the nights that go on, I want to write as well as I can as long as I can, as long as I can maintain the passion that put me at the writing desk at first. I want to honor the teachers who taught me. I want to honor this family I was luckier than anybody in the world in coming into. I want to honor my children and grandchildren. I want them to be proud of me.”

Pat Conroy – from the “Conroy at 70” celebration in Beaufort

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would wholeheartedly recommend it to fans of Pat Conroy or those interested in the life of a writer.

If you are interested in his beloved and adopted hometown Beaufort, SC, check out my blog post on “Pat Conroy’s Beaufort Tour” here.

Happy Reading!

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