Reading Matters

Pat Conroy’s ideal writing day

It’s spring, 1994, and Pat Conroy, who died this past March, is divorced from his first wife and living in Atlanta. He has not yet met Cassandra King, who will become his beloved second wife. He is on deadline for the novel, “Beach Music,” which has already sold to Twentieth Century Fox for $6 million. While he washes the lunch dishes, I ask him my favorite question: “What is an ideal day for you?”

He answers:

“Okay. Let’s see. I get up. I’m feeling great. I call (the late) Doug (Marlette). I catch Doug on the meanest day of his life, where he is vicious about every single person and subject that comes up. And when Doug is vicious, it is poetry. And it helps me.

“Okay, then if the day is really good, I will write on a chapter, and when I’m writing I get this feeling. ‘Yoo-hoo, boy! This is going to be good!” And I know it’s going good because I don’t look at the clock. I get hungry and then look at the clock. And I have written into lunch.

“And then I will cook some lunch. And after I eat lunch, I then will lie down, and preferably I’m reading a great book. And that’s the hardest thing in the world, to get a good book to read all the time.

“And maybe I’ll take a nap, and then I’ll go back, and I’ll complete whatever I’m working on. And that’s always a perfect day for me.

“And then at night, my children come in and say they have made straight A’s and have renounced sex. And usually at night, it’s that book again. Because when I’m writing, I don’t do much.”