Saturday, April 24, 2004

Time for Air!

I finished Beach Music by Pat Conroy. It sucked me in like a cheap harlequin romance, which it pretty much was. I hope all of you Pat Conroy fans don't start hating me, but frankly, I thought the book overly maudlin and sentimental. His characters became caricatures. How remarkable was growing up in the 60s when the most outside person was a military brat who could skateboard? Dude! How cool is that. Okay, I was there, too. The sixties and seventies, not Bumfucknowhere in South Carolina where the cotton is dry and the living is easy, if you're white. It didn't even matter if you were Jewish. Lord, towards the end of the book I got so cynical as to say to myself that he was imagining this one to get him an Academy Award, and just to make sure, he threw in the Holocaust. Holocaust films always get the award. I'm so cynical that I imagine Pat saying to himself, "Let's see how that Streisand bitch turns this into a movie about herself!"

On the other hand, I found it a fun read. I grew up with all those characters. Hell, I was one of those characters. Place me a few hundred miles away and have me growing up with families that also had known each other for a couple of hundred years. They knew us; we knew them.

I grew up in a peripheral family. We weren't White and we weren't Black. Each generation of my family had new scars as we fought from being marginalized by the dominant White society. We have never been good enough to be White, and we never suffered enough to be Black. Maybe that makes me more sensitive to that kind of slight. Pat Conroy, and writers like him, seem to have grown up in a South devoid of humanity outside his own social circle. Am I unkind here? You know every family in that book had a Black maid, a Black yardman, knew at least one person from the other side of town, yet there are no characters in his life of any class other than his own. What were the rest of the people in that town, chopped liver?

I thought Prince of Tides a great book in the finest of traditions of Southern writers. I'm not nearly as sure now. Maybe it was schlock, too. Don't get me wrong. I read a lot of mysteries, and even an occasional romance novel. A book does not have to be great to be entertaining. Pat Conroy entertained me greatly today. He did not, however, impress me.

I'm just saying, that's all.

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