Monday, January 6, 2014

Overwrought family drama

When a memoir is full of odd, factual errors outside of the author's life, I wonder how much real truth is being fed to me.

Such is the case with Pat Conroy's latest, The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son. Conroy reveals, to no real shock if you're familiar with his work, that a lot of his books, especially The Great Santini, are not really fiction.

We're told of the horrible childhoods Conroy and his six siblings had. They're so damaged that five of the seven attempted suicide and, tragically, one succeeded.

Conroy tells us of his eventual love and respect for this father, Don Conroy aka The Great Santini. He tells of the worship he had for his mother, and how the beauty of the Mother in The Prince of Tides was all her.

Meanwhile, his siblings do not quite remember things Pat does. I think we can infer that it was a very violent childhood, that Dad was a horror to be near. But his relationships with some of his siblings, like in many families, are often strained. His relationship with his sister Carol, a writer as well, is non-existent except at funerals, and the two funerals Conroy depicts here are doozies of family drama.

Conroy writes rich, with great Olympian detail to every paragraph. This is an asset as well as a massive, exhausting to read flaw. It's also something Conroy has made a career at.

I'm still trying to figure out how he created a member of the McCourt family named Patrick, who told Conroy that his brother was writing Angela's Ashes. There is no member of that family, and none that was a bartender in San Francisco either. Unless he meant Malachy, which means the editor failed.

It's small errors such as this that ruin the narrative for me and left me a bit disappointed when I finished.

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