July 24, 2017

Recent Reads

76. A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life
Book blurb: This volume of Pat Conroy's nonfiction brings together some of the most charming interviews, magazine articles, speeches, and letters from his long literary career, many of them addressed directly to his readers with his habitual greeting, "Hey, out there." Ranging across diverse subjects, such as favorite recent reads, the challenge of staying motivated to exercise, and processing the loss of dear friends, Conroy's eminently memorable pieces offer a unique window into the life of a true titan of Southern writing.

I listened to the audiobook which is superbly narrated by Scott Brick.

At 25.0%: Been in tears twice already and my fellow walkers look concerned for me. Oh boy.
At 58.0%: Enjoying some of these pieces more than others, but it's clear that the man had some wonderful long-term friendships.

I'm a fan of this author and was one of those saddened when he passed away. Since I was heading to the Lowcountry this month decided it was the perfect opportunity to read this one. As you can see from the blurb, it's a collection of pieces, and I was in tears for the first several. This man's gift was his honestly and vulnerability in his writing, and there is a reason he is much beloved by his readers. In this collection, some from his blog, he pays homage to reader, writers, teachers, mentors, friends, and all who wear the ring. I preferred some of the earlier pieces to the latter ones, but this is required reading for his fan base. Rating: 3 stars.

77. Notes of a Native Son
"People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster."

I don't recall the last book I read that gave me such a mental workout. It took me a while to read this one as I had to stop and ponder what the man said, and much of my copy is highlighted. I would have loved to read this one in a classroom setting, so was delighted that my GR pal Elizabeth agreed to a buddy read.

"Joyce is right about history being a nightmare - but it may be the nightmare from which no can CAN awaken. People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them."

I recently read The Weight of Ink, and this Baldwin quote kept playing in my head as I read it. We are the sum of our cumulative DNA, both physical, social, emotional. I've often thought about people being trapped by their history, but the idea of being trapped in history is an interesting one.

No review I write can do justice to this one, so I'd recommend picking up a copy and prepare yourself for a deep dive on race, religion, what it means to be human and other, societal/ cultural/ media critiques, and "the complex condition of being black in America." I learned much, pondered much, and was left with a different perspective on the issues of our time.

That Baldwin wrote this collection of essays in his early twenties is amazing. That much of what he wrote about is as pertinent today as it was in the late 1940s, early 1950s is sobering. Highly recommended, and should be required reading for everyone, especially Americans. Rating: 5 stars.

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