Thursday, July 9, 2020

A New Pat Conroy Bio by Catherine Seltzer

This morning I read that Nan A. Talese, president, publisher & editorial director of her own imprint at Doubleday, announced she will retire at the end of the year after six decades in publishing.

The first thing that went through my mind was "I wonder if this somehow means we'll see Catherine Seltzer's Pat Conroy biography?"

I have no idea is Ms. Talese has had a thing in the world to do with Catherine Seltzer's Conroy bio, but I never see the name Nan Talese without thinking of Pat Conroy, and I know Dr. Seltzer has been working on that bio.  (this is all sort of like "give a mouse a cookie," isn't it?!).  

I learned about it when Donald and I went on one of our "Pat Conroy Road Trips" in 2015.

This one was in Columbia, SC, at the University of South Carolina.  

Catherine Seltzer and Pat Conroy opened the South Carolina Book Festival with an event.  An "Understanding Pat Conroy" conversation. 

Catherine Seltzer wrote "Understanding Pat Conroy."  It's an academic study of his work.  Not a biography, as they both stressed.

It was during this event that I learned that  Catherine Seltzer, with Pat Conroy's blessing, would be writing an unauthorized biography.  

Yes, you read that correctly.  


Because, as Pat Conroy explained, unauthorized means yes, he's allowing her to tell the story, with his blessing, that he feels deserves to be told.  

But, because it will be unauthorized, no one can step up and say "No.  You can't write that."  Unhappy friends and/or family members will just have to take it as it is.  Apparently, Mr. Conroy felt strongly about this and wanted the book to be an honest accounting, pulling no punches.

It was a fun event.  I always loved seeing Pat Conroy (as you well know if you visit Meanderings and Muses), and I miss him.

And I loved meeting Catherine Seltzer.  

It was easy to see the easy camaraderie they shared and a mutual admiration was evident.

And I've been wondering about that biography!


(It's taken me awhile to make my point, huh?  😵 )

After reading about Ms. Talese's retirement, I started my Googling search about Catherine Seltzer's unauthorized Pat Conroy bio, and this is what I found at the Marly Rusoff Literary Agency webpage:

Man on Fire

by Catherine Seltzer
Publisher Nan A. Talese Books/Knopf, 2019

"Pat Conroy once observed that Thomas Wolfe, one of his early literary heroes, “writes like a man on fire who does not have a clue how not to be on fire.” It’s a wonderful line, a visceral description of a performance in which the writer risks self-immolation in a reckless pursuit of his art.

It’s not a stretch to argue that Conroy’s appreciation of Wolfe’s work was rooted in a profound sense of sympathy: Pat Conroy, too, was a man on fire. His novels—which include The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline, The Prince of Tides, Beach Music, and South of Broad—and his autobiographical works—The Water is Wide, My Losing Season, and The Death of Santini, among them—have drawn a legion of loyal fans for both their unrestrained lyricism and their willingness to engage with the dangerous fires associated with emotional, domestic, and cultural truths. In his personal life, too, Conroy often was attracted to flame, committing himself fully to courses of action that would leave him singed if not scorched. Man on Fire: A Literary Biography of Pat Conroy, then, attempts to create a full portrait of Pat Conroy as both an ambitious writer who sought to chronicle his life and age, and as a complicated, at times enigmatic man who struggled to define himself within and outside of his art.

In many ways, Pat Conroy is already a familiar figure to a significant number of his readers. His novels all draw deeply from his own experiences, and Conroy explored his personal history in an equal number of explicitly autobiographical texts, including, most recently, The Death of Santini. As a result, the details of Conroy’s life—which include growing up with an abusive Marine father and a distant and manipulative mother; suffering brutal hazing at The Citadel, a private southern military college; and teaching in a two-room schoolhouse on a remote South Carolina barrier island during the Civil Rights Era—are well known to Conroy’s vast readership. Indeed, it’s fair to say that Conroy is not simply familiar to most of his fans, but almost familial to them. The novelist Carolyn See once confessed that although she had not met him, “I’ve always thought of Pat Conroy as a cousin or a brother or an uncle,” and this sense is broadly echoed among Conroy’s readership. He is “the cousin or brother or uncle” who has given voice to a shared history of family trauma, racial anxiety, and religious uncertainty, and the result is a connection between Conroy and his readership that is unprecedented. Man on Fire seeks not simply to illuminate the details of an already familiar life, then, but to add to this narrative by addressing the gaps—many crucial—that are the natural consequence of Conroy’s efforts to craft an engaging and coherent autobiography. (As Conroy himself explained, “I approach the art of memoir with an open heart, not [a] puritanical eye.”) Moreover, Man on Fire often complicates the existing narrative by introducing material from Conroy’s papers—unpublished journals, personal and professional correspondence, and draft manuscripts —as well as interviews with Conroy, his friends, his family, and his colleagues, texts and voices that dramatically enrich—and sometimes alter—an understanding of Conroy and his work."



No exact date, but it looks like we might be able to read it this year.

I'm a happy girl.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020


There are 27 beezillion shades of blue.

At least, that's my very own personal estimation.

So, picking up sample paint chips at the paint store is a little bit fun, a little bit baffling, and a little bit intimidating.


Rather than standing in front of the display, while wearing a mask, trying to choose a reasonable number of samples to bring home, I grabbed several.

I now have a few samples and I'm pretty sure I'll be able to find the "perfect" color.

But still feeling a bit intimidated.

I just want a cool pale blue, a whisper over white.

How hard can it be?



I started thinking about painting our bedroom a couple years ago (see how quickly I move!).

And, here's the thing.

I actually enjoy painting.

It becomes, for me, a zen sort of activity.  



It's the prep work that's a royal pain.

Our bedroom is small, but is full of areas of white trim.

A built-in bookcase, a closet, a quirky little cubby closet, windows, and a door.  Baseboards.

All of which will look wonderful with pretty cool pale blue walls.

But first I'll need to empty bookcases and dressers.

Move furniture.

Take a lot of pictures and artwork off the walls.

Looking around I see so much to move.  

books.  boots.  candles.  

sit-abouts.  stuffies.  

a big iron bed.

It's enough to give a girl The Blues.


While I'm  pondering all this and psyching myself up for this project, maybe I'll read a little.

Maybe a poem or two . . . 

by Billy Collins
You can have Egypt and Nantucket.
The only place I want to visit is The Blue,
not the Wild Blue Yonder that seduces pilots,
but that zone where the unexpected dwells,
waiting to come out of it in the shape of bolts.
I want to walk its azure perimeter
where the unanticipated is coiled, on the mark,
ready to spring into the predicitable homes of earth.
I want to stroll through the pale indigo light
examining all the accidents about to rocket into time,
all the forgotten names about to fly from tongues.
I will scrutinize all the surprises of the future
and watch the brainstorms gathering darkly,
ready to hit the heads of inventors
laboring in their crackpot shacks.
A jaded traveler with an invisible passport,
I am at home with this heaven of the unforeseen,
waiting for the next whoosh of sudden departure
when, with no advance warning, to tiny augery,
the unpredictable plummets into our lives
from somewhere that looks like sky.

Think about how many staggering shades of blue there are . . . 

and those names!

Wonderful, fun, astonishing names!  Millions of them!

don't get me started . . . 

Maybe one more poem -

A slash of Blue—
A sweep of Gray—
Some scarlet patches on the way,
Compose an Evening Sky—
A little purple—slipped between—
Some Ruby Trousers hurried on—
A Wave of Gold—
A Bank of Day—
This just makes out the Morning Sky.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

July 4th - Now and Then

Childe Hassam

This year we're observing a different sort of Independence Day than the one I've written about below.

One that has many of us sheltering while trying to stay healthy during this coronavirus pandemic.

Sadly, because so many, including the so called "leaders" of this country have failed quite miserably in protecting its citizens during this global pandemic, we are not even close to where we could be in terms of flattening the curve and coming to the other side.

And, sadly, because even though wearing masks is a proven way of protection, that has become a political issue of great divide.  A dumb divide.

A statement I've read and completely agree with - "Wearing a mask in public is more of an IQ test . . . "

So.  How many of us plan on "celebrating" the 4th of July at home this year.

We have, in years past, gone into town, had brunch at Melanie's and watched the Boone 4th of July Parade.

Not this year.

Borrowing words from political historian Heather Cox Richardson -

And on July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, declaring: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."
For all the fact that the congressmen got around the sticky little problem of black and Indian slavery by defining "men" as "white men," and for all that it never crossed their mind that women might also have rights, the Declaration of Independence was an astonishingly radical document. In a world that had been dominated by a small class of rich men for so long that most people simply accepted that they should be forever tied to their status at birth, a group of upstart legislators on the edge of a wilderness continent declared that no man was born better than any other.
America was founded on the radical idea that all men are created equal.
What the founders declared self-evident was not so clear eighty-seven years later, when southern white men went to war to reshape America into a nation in which African Americans, Indians, Chinese, and Irish were locked into a lower status than whites. In that era, equality had become a "proposition," rather than "self-evident." "Four score and seven years ago," Abraham Lincoln reminded Americans, "our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." In 1863, Lincoln explained, the Civil War was "testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure."
It did, of course. The Confederate rebellion failed. The United States endured, and Americans began to expand the idea that all men are created equal to include men of color, and eventually to include women.
But just as in the 1850s, we are now, once again, facing a rebellion against our founding principle, as a few wealthy men seek to reshape America into a nation in which certain people are better than others.
The men who signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 pledged their "Lives, [their] Fortunes and [their] sacred Honor" to defend the idea of human equality. Ever since then, Americans have sacrificed their own fortunes, honor, and even their lives, for that principle. Lincoln reminded Civil War Americans of those sacrifices when he urged the people of his era to "take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Words to live by in 2020.
Happy Independence Day, everyone.

And borrowing more words from Steve Schmidt, Republican Public Affairs Strategist - 
"His Presidency is ending soon. He stands as a colossus of malfeasance, incompetence, ineptitude, delusion and malice. The worst President in American history will be his eternal Epithet. His name will be a synonym for failure and toxic stupidity. His incompetence is lethal."

Wayne Thiebaud


I'll serve up some bbq for us, but in other ways, today will just be another day in the  (once)United States of America during a global pandemic with a divisive "leader."

Here's to next year, may it be better.

Kinda like what it was a few years ago when I  posted this Fourth of July piece - - -


(Originally posted at Jungle Red Writers several years ago)

I was raised in a small town, but then ended up in the big city of Atlanta for 30 + years.

We moved to Boone in 1997, and I must say - I was happy to be back in a small town.  And still am.

I am most definitely, at heart, a small town girl.

And one of the things that brings all this home to me, in case life in general causes me to forget, is the 4th of July.

Come enjoy a very special parade and a few street scenes from the small town in the North Carolina mountains Donald and I call home.

First of all, you should understand that it's virtually impossible for me to go into town for any reason and not have breakfast at my favorite restaurant, Melanie's Food Fantasy.

This is Melanie.  She has owned this
Boone landmark since before we moved here.
Melanie rocks.

And so does everything on her menu - especially the Eggs Benedict

A perfect day for a parade!

A parade for everyone.  

Old trucks and cool old cars.
Kids riding bikes & littler kids being pulled in little cars by their dads.
WWII vets getting loud cheers and whistles.
Local Democrats playing kazoos on a float.
A friend dressed as a watermelon.
Fire trucks and a drill team.
Smokey the Bear and tractors and horses.
Dogs, dogs dressed as Uncle Sam, the "real" Uncle Sam.
A lot of flags
and a lot of smiling faces.

There's a lot of political stuff I'm pretty mad about right now, but a small town 4th of July parade still brings up a lump in my throat and tears to my eyes.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

It's been a great day.

But . . .

The 4th isn't over until that big firework finale - 

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Wear A Mask!

Annabelle may not have this mask thing figured out just yet, but by golly she's trying. 

And awhoooooo you should hear the things she's saying about those who aren't

And here's why - - - 

Wear a mask!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Rabbit, Rabbit

I usually post a "Rabbit, Rabbit" image at Facebook on the first day of each month.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. "Rabbit rabbit rabbit" is a superstition found in Britain and North America wherein a person says or repeats the words "rabbit", "rabbits" and/or "white rabbits" aloud upon waking on the first day of a month, to ensure good luck for the rest of it."

But since I'm not spending as much time at Facebook these days, Meanderings and Muses is a nice place to continue the tradition.

p.s. -
I'm fine.
Not to worry.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Memories in photograph albums

My dad died in 1984. 

One of the things my mom and I did before moving from Atlanta to Boone in 1997 was go through several hundreds of photos.

(I get my "camera love" from my dad)

It was a painful, joyous, tearful, laugh-filled time.  

Lots of "omg, remember this?!"

And some "WHO is that?!"  

Pictures of people neither of us remembered, but who we knew weren't family members, were finally tossed.

And she decided which pictures she wanted to keep and gave me the rest. 

After we moved to Boone, before I found a job and while Donald was at work, my mom and I would spend days putting pictures in photo albums. 

This was easier on our hearts than that first step of going through them all.

The surprises were behind us, and the memories were sweet.

And we laughed.

Those were good days.

Then my mom died in 2015.

I was now retired, and Donald was still working.

I spent several days going through her apartment deciding what to do with what, and Donald would come over in the evenings to help.

Again, wow - memories.  They can knock a person flat.

We brought this box of photo albums home with us.

Photos I haven't seen since 1997.

I haven't been able to bring myself to open the first album.

But it may be time.

I've been missing my folks.  A lot.

It would be nice to be able to pick up the phone and talk about how we're feeling right now.  

Honestly?  Some days I feel sad and frightened and need a hug from my mom and dad.

Hear my mom toss out some of her salty philosophy, while my dad wears a grin at her dramatics and nods his head.


Since I can't sit across the table from them for Sunday dinner, maybe it's time for me to relive some memories that are all tied up in these photo albums.

I love and miss them both.

Hazel and Al Wilkinson

By Herself and Her Friends

If I should go before the rest of you
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone,
Nor when I'm gone speak in a Sunday voice
But be the usual selves that I have known.
Weep if you must, Parting is hell,
But Life goes on, So sing as well.

Joyce Grenfell