September 7th, 2012
I was watching a Youtube interview with Pat Conroy, under which someone had commented, "I don't know about The Prince of Tides, more like The Prince of Comb-over." His hair-do does leave something to be desired, it is true, but his writing does not. One critic said about "Prince of Tides," that "Conroy has made the language sing and bleed at the same time." What author could hope for a better critique than that?
So, I am still mystified as to why his books have cheesy covers and are relegated to the book shop back rooms. I thought a lot about this while I was reading "The Prince of Tides," trying to locate the moments when he tripped up, almost wanting to find a reason why he just didn't make the mark. If his prose were pedestrian, I could understand it. Maybe if his dialogue were just awful. But his prose is wonderful, rich and full of humour. He describes his sister in terms of "the weightless harmonics of her madness." In a dying woman's house, "I could hear great clocks spooning out moments with metallic strokes, their long blades cutting through the silks of time. All the clocks struck nine in semi-darkness, and the sombre tolling of every clock in every room of the house disowned the hour in the dumbstruck language of bells. I wondered if it was just in the house of the dying that you became so acutely aware of the presence of clocks." And those kinds of sentences are not few and far between in Conroy. You're constantly stopping to go back and savour the last sentence. So, that's good writing. If I could fault him, it's on plot. It's a little "smack you between the eyes." A little. If I were pushed, I might say his drama slips sometimes into melodrama. But only if I were pushed. Also, in this book, the plot feels a little lobsided. There's a hell of a lot of flashback, to the extent that you feel like dragging the writer back to the present sometimes and asking him to get on with the story, which in this case is a love story. I wanted more of that to anchor those trips to the past. But I can't help thinking that was probably the fault of the editing. When Conroy turned "The Prince of Tides" in to his editor, it was twice as long, which would have been too long, but I think in the snipping and pasting the story probably lost a bit of balance. That said, it is still a delicious piece of writing, the kind of book you don't really want to end.
What I really would like to come to an end is the waiting for my turn on the runway. I was told a few weeks ago that take-off time would be after Labor Day weekend, but, alas, no word has slipped through into my e-mail box, which I compulsively check. I fret and worry that my publication date will be set back, and it is already a lifetime away. What if, in the meantime, the world makes a 2012 polar shift, and instead of living in the snowy mountains I find myself in a tropical forest, batting off tsetse flies instead of huddling under blankets at my computer?
I distract myself by working on the screenplay of the novel and have that nearly ready for some shaker or taker, preferably buyer. Preferably some director who values the role of the writer. Diana Gabaldon still hasn't released her film rights for "Outlander," because, so I hear, she can't think of an actor who would fit the part of her hero. More important to me would be finding a company who would work with me and not turn my opus into a piece of schlock. I am standing in the hallway, listening to sombre clocks spooning out moments.