Cover To Cover is the anchor program for GPB’s literary coverage. Cover To Cover features a collection of distinctive Southern voices interviewing Georgia writers, Southern writers, and writers dealing with the South. The GPB Southern Lit Cadre will provide you with a varied, weekly glimpse at fiction, non-fiction, history, poetry, and even the occasional ‘old school’ nod to Flannery O’Connor or William Faulkner.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Incomparable Voice of Pat Conroy

Pat Conroy's South of Broad, the Atlanta-born author's first novel in 14 years, raced to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List almost immediately upon its August publication, showing the enduring popularity of Conroy's distinctive Southern voice, lush prose, and inevitably wounded characters.

Despite his immense popularity, Conroy is as affable and self-effacing as any interview subject I've had the pleasure of hosting on Cover to Cover.

Deadpanning that his popularity was based on how "shallow" his stories are but also claiming that his editor, Nan Talese, destroys the magnificent 1000-page manuscripts he turns in ("she writes the checks"), Conroy understands the kind of writer he is--and how he connects with his audience--and the kind of writer he is not.

South of Broad is, as most Conroy novels are, many books in one. Primarily Conroy describes it as a "love letter" to Charleston, South Carolina. In the novel, though, Conroy takes his characters out to another favorite city of his--San Francisco--where the focus is the early years of the AIDS epidemic, which Conroy experienced first-hand. Another theme of the book is the power and workings of life-long friendships, and of course, he writes of dysfunctional families, abuse, mental illness, racial and class injustice and, the meaning of being Southern.

Ultimately, though, fans of Conroy cherish his books for his incomparable prose style, which he still renders in long-hand, and which, as he discusses in the interview, he plans to put to work next in a book focused on his long-time home of Atlanta.

And, he's pledging to try and finish that sooner than 14 more years.

Listen to this episode