Friday, April 15, 2016

the last book I ever read (Pat Conroy's My Reading Life, excerpt ten)

from My Reading Life by Pat Conroy:

Gene Norris gave me a copy of Look Homeward, Angel as a Christmas present that December. I think you are now ready for the many pleasures of Thomas Wolfe, he wrote in the book, the first ever inscribed to me. The book’s impact on me was so visceral that I mark the reading of Look Homeward, Angel as one of the pivotal events of my life. It starts off with the single greatest, knock-your-socks-off first page I have ever come across in my careful reading of world literature, and I consider myself a small-time aficionado of wonderful first and last pages. The book itself took full possession of me in a way no book has before or since. I read it from cover to cover three straight times, transfigured by the mesmerizing hold of the narrator’s voice as I took in and fed on the power of the long line. It was the first time I realized that breathing and the written word were intimately connected to each other. I stepped into the bracing streams of Thomas Wolfe and could already hear the waterfalls forming in the cliffs that lay invisible beyond me. I kept holding my breath as I read Look Homeward, Angel. The beauty of the language, shaped in sentences as pretty as blue herons, brought me to my knees with pleasure. I did not know the words could pour through me like honey through a burst hive or that gardens seeded in dark secrecy could bloom along the borders of my half-ruined boyhood because a writer could touch me in all the broken places with his art.

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