161 Quotes & Sayings By Pat Conroy

Pat Conroy was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, and grew up in the small town of Burgaw on the Southern Outer Banks. He started writing at age thirteen and his first story appeared in a high school literary magazine. He earned his bachelor's degree from Davidson College and his master's degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He began working as a reporter for the Charlotte News in 1965 and later became a columnist for Southern Living magazine Read more

Conroy won acclaim with his first novel, The Great Santini, published in 1970. He has written eleven other novels as well as many other works including nonfiction relating to family, friends, and nature.

I wanted to become the seeker, the aroused and passionate explorer, and it was better to go at it knowing nothing at all, always choosing the unmarked bottle, always choosing your own unproven method, armed with nothing but faith and a belief in astonishment. Pat Conroy
I’ve never had anyone’s approval, so I’ve learned to live without it. Pat Conroy
It did not look like the work of God, but it might have represented the handicraft of a God with a joyous sense of humor, a dancing God who loved mischief as much as prayer, and playfulness as much as mischief. Pat Conroy
The tide was a poem that only time could create,...
The tide was a poem that only time could create, and I watched it stream and brim and makes its steady dash homeward, to the ocean. Pat Conroy
Happiness is an accident of nature, a beautiful and flawless...
Happiness is an accident of nature, a beautiful and flawless aberration. Pat Conroy
Writing poetry and reading books causes brain damage.
Writing poetry and reading books causes brain damage. Pat Conroy
Do you think that Hemingway knew he was a writer at twenty years old? No, he did not. Or Fitzgerald, or Wolfe. This is a difficult concept to grasp. Hemingway didn't know he was Ernest Hemingway when he was a young man. Faulkner didn't know he was William Faulkner. But they had to take the first step. They had to call themselves writers. That is the first revolutionary act a writer has to make. It takes courage. But it's necessary. Pat Conroy
I prayed hard and only gradually became aware that this fierce praying was a way of finding prologue and entrance into my own writing. This came as both astonishment and relief. When I thought God had abandoned me, I discovered that He had simply given me a different voice to praise the inexhaustible beauty of the made world. Pat Conroy
Good writing is the hardest form of thinking. It involves the agony of turning profoundly difficult thoughts into lucid form, then forcing them into the tight-fitting uniform of language, making them visible and clear. If the writing is good, then the result seems effortless and inevitable. But when you want to say something life-changing or ineffable in a single sentence, you face both the limitations of the sentence itself and the extent of your own talent. . Pat Conroy
Here's what I want from a book, what I demand, what I pray for when I take up a novel and begin to read the first sentence: I want everything and nothing less, the full measure of a writer's heart. I want a novel so poetic that I do not have to turn to the standby anthologies of poetry to satisfy that itch for music, for perfection and economy of phrasing, for exactness of tone. Then, too, I want a book so filled with story and character that I read page after page without thinking of food or drink because a writer has possessed me, crazed with an unappeasable thirst to know what happens next. Pat Conroy
In our modern age, there are writers who have heaped scorn on the very idea of the primacy of story. I'd rather warm my hands on a sunlit ice floe than try to coax fire from the books they carve from glaciers. Pat Conroy
Great teachers had great personalities and that the greatest teachers had outrageous personalities. I did not like decorum or rectitude in a classroom; I preferred a highly oxygenated atmosphere, a climate of intemperance, rhetoric, and feverish melodrama. And I wanted my teachers to make me smart. A great teacher is my adversary, my conqueror, commissioned to chastise me. He leaves me tame and grateful for the new language he has purloined from other kings whose granaries are filled and whose libraries are famous. He tells me that teaching is the art of theft: of knowing what to steal and from whom. Bad teachers do not touch me; the great ones never leave me. They ride with me during all my days, and I pass on to others what they have imparted to me. I exchange their handy gifts with strangers on trains, and I pretend the gifts are mine. I steal from the great teachers. And the truly wonderful thing about them is they would applaud my theft, laugh at the thought of it, realizing they had taught me their larcenous skills well. Pat Conroy
You get a little moody sometimes but I think that's...
You get a little moody sometimes but I think that's because you like to read. People that like to read are always a little fucked up. Pat Conroy
A library could show you everything if you knew where...
A library could show you everything if you knew where to look. Pat Conroy
Southerners had a long tradition of looking for religious significance in even the most humble forms of nature, and I always preferred the explanations of folklore to the icy interpretations of science. Pat Conroy
I meditated on the nature of friendship as I practiced the craft. My friends had always come from outside the mainstream. I had always been popular with the fifth column of my peers, those individuals who were princely in their solitude, lords of their own unpraised melancholy. Distrusting the approval of the chosen, I would take the applause of exiles anytime. My friends were all foreigners, and they wore their unbelongingness in their eyes. I hunted for that look; I saw it often, disarrayed and fragmentary and furious, and I approached every boy who invited me in. Pat Conroy
Among the worst things about growing old is the loss...
Among the worst things about growing old is the loss of those irreplaceable friends who added richness and depth to your life. Pat Conroy
I envy the tireless intimacy of women’s friendship, its lastingness,...
I envy the tireless intimacy of women’s friendship, its lastingness, and its unbendable strength. Pat Conroy
Few people understood the exceptional role the civil rights movement had on the white boys and girls of the South. Bill Clinton would never have become who he was without the shining example of Martin Luther King. The same is true of Jimmy Carter and Fritz Hollings and Richard and Joe Riley. Imagine this: you’re a little white kid and you watch firehoses turned on people who don’t seem to be hurting anyone, and fierce dogs being tuned on young men who carry signs about freedom. We white kids grew up watching movies and TV and guess what we had learned to do? We had learned to tell the good guys from the bad guys. Pat Conroy
It's politics .. . It makes everybody stupid. When you...
It's politics .. . It makes everybody stupid. When you grow up, you'll know what I mean. Pat Conroy
But even her demons she invested with inordinate beauty, consecrated...
But even her demons she invested with inordinate beauty, consecrated them with the dignity of her attention. Pat Conroy
There were far worse strategies in life than to try...
There were far worse strategies in life than to try to make each aspect of one's existence a minor work of art. Pat Conroy
It was growing dark on this long southern evening, and suddenly, at the exact point her finger had indicated, the moon lifted a forehead of stunning gold above the horizon, lifted straight out of filigreed, light-intoxicated clouds that lay on the skyline in attendant veils. Behind us, the sun was setting in a simultaneous congruent withdrawal and the river turned to flame in a quiet duel of gold.. The new gold of moon astonishing and ascendant, he depleted gold of sunset extinguishing itself in the long westward slide, it was the old dance of days in the Carolina marshes, the breathtaking death of days before the eyes of children, until the sun vanished, its final signature a ribbon of bullion strung across the tops of water oaks. Pat Conroy
I felt the sharp sting of emptiness and solitude that...
I felt the sharp sting of emptiness and solitude that you feel so acutely and with such internal sorrow and wonder whenever music is performed well. Pat Conroy
In matters of good-lookingness, we writers are the ugliest of the bunch, and normally our appearance is akin to that of someone investigating a crime scene; though the women in American writing keep producing world-class beauty in droves, and there are many breathtaking writers among them. Pat Conroy
The world of literature has everything in it, and it refuses to leave anything out. I have read like a man on fire my whole life because the genius of English teachers touched me with the dazzling beauty of language. Because of them I rode with Don Quixote and danced with Anna Karenina at a ball in St. Petersburg and lassoed a steer in "Lonesome Dove" and had nightmares about slavery in "Beloved" and walked the streets of Dublin in "Ulysses" and made up a hundred stories in the Arabian nights and saw my mother killed by a baseball in "A Prayer for Owen Meany." I've been in ten thousand cities and have introduced myself to a hundred thousand strangers in my exuberant reading career, all because I listened to my fabulous English teachers and soaked up every single thing those magnificent men and women had to give. I cherish and praise them and thank them for finding me when I was a boy and presenting me with the precious gift of the English language. Pat Conroy
Here's what I love: when a great writer turns me into a Jew from Chicago, a lesbian out of South Carolina, or a black woman moving into a subway entrance in Harlem. Turn me into something else, writers of the world. Make me Muslim, heretic, hermaphrodite. Put me into a crusader's armor, a cardinal's vestments. Let me feel the pygmy's heartbeat, the queen's breast, the torturer's pleasure, the Nile's taste, or the nomad's thirst. Tell me everything that I must know. Hold nothing back. . Pat Conroy
The reading of great books has been a life-altering activity to me and, for better or worse, brought me singing and language-obsessed to that country where I make my living. Except for teaching, I’ve had no other ambition in life than to write books that mattered. Pat Conroy
I don’t know when reading books became the most essential thing about me, but it happened over the years and I found myself the most willing servant of what I considered a rich habit. Pat Conroy
I cannot express how lordly and transfigured I felt at that moment. I was a prince of that harbor, a porpoise king - slim among the buoys and the water traffic. Pat Conroy
This [sand-dollar hunting] had become one of our rituals together, and though she would search for other varieties of shells when I was out of town or unable to see her, she would wait until I appeared on her front porch before setting off to extract these mute delicate coins from their settings in the sand. At first, we had collected only the larger specimens, but gradually as we learned what was rare and to be truly prized, we began to gather only the smallest sand dollars for our collection. Our trophies were sometimes as small as thumbnails and as fragile as contact lenses. Annie Kate collected the tiniest relics, round and cruciform and white as bone china when dried of sea water, and placed them in a glass-and-copper cricket box in her bedroom. Often we would sit together and admire the modest splendor of our accumulation. At times it looked like the coinage of a shy, diminutive species of angel. Our quest to find the smallest sand dollar became a competition between us, and as the months passed and Annie Kate grew larger with the child, the brittle, desiccated animals we unearthed from the sand became smaller and smaller. It was all a matter of training the eye to expect less. Pat Conroy
I loved these salt rivers more than I loved the sea; I loved the movement of tides more than I loved the fury of surf. Something in me was congruent with this land, something affirmed when I witnessed the startled, piping rush of shrimp or the flash of starlight on the scales of mullet. I could feel myself relax and change whenever I returned to the lowcountry and saw the vast green expanses of marsh, feminine as lace, delicate as calligraphy. The lowcountry had its own special ache and sting. . Pat Conroy
It was in her garden that whatever physical grace Abigail St. Croix possessed asserted itself. She moved among her flowers with consummate natural fluidity, enjoying the incommunicable pleasures of growing things with the patience and concentration of a watchmaker. In this, her small, green country, surrounded by an embrasure of old Charleston brick, there were camellias of distinction, eight discrete varieties of azaleas, and a host of other flowers, but she directed her prime attention to the growing of roses. She had taught me to love flowers since I had known her; I had learned that each variety had its own special personality, its own distinctive and individual way of presenting itself to the world. She told me of the shyness of columbine, the aggression of ivy, and the diseases that affected gardenias. Some flowers were arrogant invaders and would overrun the entire garden if allowed too much freedom. Some were so diffident and fearful that in their fragile reticence often lived the truest, most infinitely prized beauty. She spoke to her flowers unconsciously as we made our way to the roses in the rear of the garden. “You can learn a lot from raising roses, Will. I’ve always told you that.” “I’ve never raised a good weed, Abigail. I could kill kudzu.”“ Then one part of your life is empty, ” she declared. “There’s a part of the spirit that’s not being fed. . Pat Conroy
Moonrise is a fabulous novel and my damn wife wrote it and that’s me up there near Highlands shouting it out to the hills. Pat Conroy
It eases my soul that I share a house with [Cassandra King] a novelist of such rare and distinctive gifts. Pat Conroy
Music could ache and hurt, that beautiful music was a place a suffering man could hide. Pat Conroy
Carolina beach music, " Dupree said, coming up on the porch. "The holiest sound on earth. Pat Conroy
These are the quicksilver moments of my childhood I cannot remember entirely. Irresistible and emblematic, I can recall them only in fragments and shivers of the heart. Pat Conroy
Fantasy is one of the soul's brighter porcelains. Pat Conroy
In family matters you can get over anything. That's one thing you'll learn as an adult. There's a lot you have to learn which is a lot worse than that. You'd never think of forgiving a friend for some of the things your parents did to you. But with friends it's different. Friends aren't the roll of the dice. Pat Conroy
My father managed to change his entire life after I wrote a novel about his brutal regime as a family man. It took resoluteness and courage for my father to change, and I need to acknowledge that. Pat Conroy
It’s the great surprise of my life that I ended up loving [my father] so much. Pat Conroy
The only way I could endure being a coward was if I was the only one who knew it. Pat Conroy
He was ruled by the tyranny of instinct, by passion and the instant legislation of a simple heart. Pat Conroy
Great romantics are granted lots of slack. Pat Conroy
When mom and dad went to war the only prisoners they took were the children Pat Conroy
I have always been attracted to male writers who can demonstrate their love and affection for women with ease, yet not draw attention to themselves. Pat Conroy
Together they spent their whole lives waiting for their luck to change, as though luck were some fabulous tide that would one day flood and consecrate the marshes of our island, christening us in the iridescent ointments of a charmed destiny. Pat Conroy
The writing of novels is one of the few ways I have found to approach the altar of God and Creation itself. You try to worship God by performing the singularly courageous and impossible favor of knowing yourself. Pat Conroy
When you write by hand, you don't have the excessive freedom of a computer. When I write down something, I have to be serious about it. I have to ask myself, "Is this necessary at this point in the book? Pat Conroy
You have to pay for this view (onto which he looks while writing), so our expenses keep us pretty motivated to write. It's a vicious cycle. Pat Conroy
Fierce praying was a way of finding entrance and prologue into my own writing. Pat Conroy
I have read like a man on fire my whole life because the genius of English teachers touched me with the dazzling beauty of language. Pat Conroy
I have yet to meet an English teacher who assigned a book to damage a kid. Pat Conroy
Read the great books, gentlemen, ” Mr. Monte said one day. “Just the great ones. Ignore the others. There’s not enough time. Pat Conroy
There is no teacher more discriminating or transforming than loss. Pat Conroy
Loss invites reflection and reformulating and a change of strategies. Loss hurts and bleeds and aches. Loss is always ready to call out your name in the night. Loss follows you home and taunts you at the breakfast table, follows you to work in the morning. You have to make accommodations and broker deals to soften the rabbit punches that loss brings to your daily life. You have to take the word "loser" and add it to your resume and walk around with it on your name tag as it hand-feeds you your own shit in dosages too large for even great beasts to swallow. The word "loser" follows you, bird-dogs you, sniffs you out of whatever fields you hide in because you have to face things clearly and you cannot turn away from what is true. . Pat Conroy
A woman in Charlotte approached me and said that she’s tired of the dysfunction in my novels. I told her I was sorry, but that is how the world has presented itself to me throughout my life. Pat Conroy
The most powerful words in English are, "Tell me a story. Pat Conroy
He was one of those rare men who are capable of being fully in love only once in their lives. Pat Conroy
My memory often seems like a city of exiled poets afire with the astonishment of language, each believing in the integrity of his own witness, each with a separate version of culture and history, and the divine essential fire that is poetry itself. Pat Conroy
I wish nights like this weren't so fragile and slippery and impossible to nail down for study in one's leisure. But the really great nights pass through you like whispers or shadows. They shimmer, but don't adhere. Pat Conroy
Gonzaga was the kind of place you’d not even think about loving until you’d left it for a couple of years. Pat Conroy
Help them, but don't make friends with them. Pat Conroy
There was a time when a new deputy tried to teach Mr. Fruit about the difference between a red and a green light, but Mr. Fruit had resisted all efforts to reorder what he had been doing perfectly well for many years. He had not only monitored the comings and goings of the town, his presence softened the ingrained evil that flourished along the invisible margins of the town’s consciousness. Any community can be judged in its humanity or corruption by how it manages to accommodate the Mr. Fruits of the world. Colleton simply adjusted itself to Mr. Fruit’s harmonies and ordinations. He did whatever he felt was needed and he did it with style. “That’s the Southern way” my grandmother said. “That’s the nice way. Pat Conroy
Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey. Pat Conroy
I thought that I must always search for the remarkable combinations, add unknowns, mix things that were clearly marked with things beyond marking. I would leave the simulated test and enter into forbidden territory. I would look for that moment when I would begin to pour alone and in wonder. I would always try to seize that moment and to accept its challenge. I wanted to become the seeker, the aroused and passionate explorer, and it was better to go at it knowing nothing at all, always choosing the unmarked bottle, always choosing your own unproven method, armed with nothing faith and a belief in astonishment. And if by accident, I could make a volcano in a single test tube, then what could I do with all the strange magnificent elements of the world with its infinity of unknowns, with the swarm of man, with civilization, with language? . Pat Conroy
Hurt is a great teacher, maybe the greatest of all. Pat Conroy
Throughout my career I’ve lived in constant fear that I wouldn’t be good enough, that I’d have nothing to say, that I’d be laughed at, humiliated–and I’m old enough to know that fear will follow me to the very last word I’ll ever write. As for now, I feel the first itch of the novel I’m supposed to write–the grain of sand that irritates the soft tissues of the oyster. The beginning of the world as I don’t quite know it. But I trust I’ll begin to know it soon. . Pat Conroy
Generally, writers descend from a lesser tribe, and whatever claim to beauty we have shows up on the printed page far more often than it does in our mirrors. Even as I writer these words I think of dozens off writers, both male and female, who make a mockery of this generalization. But comeliness among writers is rare enough to be noteworthy. Pat Conroy
I’ve always felt a vague sense of guilt that I search for plunder and inspiration in every book or poem or story I pick up. Other people’s books are treasures when stories emerge in molten ingots that a writer can shape to fit his or her own talents. Magical theft has always played an important part of my own writer’s imagination. Pat Conroy
Generosity is the rarest of qualities in American writers. Pat Conroy
Losing well was a gift, but winning well is this stuff of the authentic manhood. Pat Conroy
I take account of my life and find that I have lived a lot and learned very little. Pat Conroy
The desolate narrowness, the definitive thinness of experience is both the vainglory and the dead giveaway of a provincial man. Pat Conroy
Over the years, my church gave me passage into a menagerie of exotic words unknown in the South: "introit, " "offertory, " "liturgy, " "movable feast, " "the minor elevation, " "the lavabo, " "the apparition of Lourdes, " and hundreds more. Latin deposited the dark minerals of its rhythms on the shelves of my spoken language. You may find the harmonics of the Common of the Mass in every book I've ever written. Because I was raised Roman Catholic, I never feared taking any unchaperoned walks through the fields of language. Words lifted me up and filled me with pleasure. Pat Conroy
It would always be my burden, not that I lacked genius, but that I was fully aware of it. Pat Conroy
Love had always issued out of the places that hurt the most. Pat Conroy
The mind is an intricate mechanism that can be run on the fuels of both victory and defeatism. Pat Conroy
The pursuit of greatness means that laziness has no place in your life. Pat Conroy
As his children, we were treated as some species of migrant workers who happened to be passing through. My father was the only person I ever knew who looked upon childhood as a dishonorable vocation one grew out of as quickly as possible. Pat Conroy
In every southerner, beneath the veneer of clichés lies a much deeper motherlode of cliché. But even cliché is overlaid with enormous power when a child is involved. Pat Conroy
I was trying to unravel the complicated trigonometry of the radical thought that silence could make up the greatest lie ever told. Pat Conroy
There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. Pat Conroy
The choices I didn’t make are almost as ruinous as the ones I did. Pat Conroy
She understood the nature of sin and knew that its most volatile form was the kind that did not recognize itself. Pat Conroy
College was to teach me that I was one of life's journeymen, eager to excel but lacking the requisite gifts. Pat Conroy
I would always be a better hater of things and institutions than a lover of them. Pat Conroy
If any writer in this country has collected as fine and passionate a group of readers as I have, they’re fortunate and lucky beyond anyone’s imagination. It remains a shock to me that I’ve had a successful writing career. Not someone like me; Lord, there were too many forces working against me, too many dark currents pushing against me, but it somehow worked. Though I wish I’d written a lot more, been bolder with my talent, more forgiving of my weaknesses, I’ve managed to draw a magic audience into my circle. They come to my signings to tell me stories, their stories. The ones that have hurt them and made their nights long and their lives harder. Pat Conroy
To have attracted readers is the most magical part of my writing life. I was not expecting you to show up when I wrote my first books. It took me by surprise. It filled me with gratitude. It still does. Pat Conroy
The teachers of my life saved my life and sent me out prepared for whatever life I was meant to lead. Like everyone else, I had some bad ones and mediocre ones, but I never had one that I thought was holding me back because of idleness or thoughtlessness. They spent their lives with the likes of me and I felt safe during the time they spent with me. The best of them made me want to be just like them. I wanted young kids to look at me the way I looked at the teachers who loved me. Loving them was not difficult for a boy like me. They lit a path for me, and one that I followed with joy. . Pat Conroy
My career still strikes me as miraculous. That a boy raised on Marine bases in the South, taught by Roman Catholic nuns in backwater Southern towns that loathed Catholics, and completed his education with an immersion into The Citadel–the whole story sounds fabricated, impossible even to me. Maybe especially to me. Pat Conroy
You must appreciate beauty for it to endure. Pat Conroy
Later, long after my grandfather was dead, I would regret that I could never be the kind of man that he was. Though I adored him as a child and found myself attracted to the safe protectorate of his soft, uncritical maleness, I never wholly appreciated him. I did not know how to cherish sanctity, and I had no way of honoring, of giving small voice to the praise of such natural innocence, such a generous simplicity. Now I know that a part of me would like to have traveled the world as he traveled it, a jester of burning faith, a fool and a forest prince brimming with the love of God. I would like to walk his southern world, thanking God for oysters and porpoises, praising God for birdsongs and sheet lightning, and seeing God reflected in pools of creekwater and the eyes of stray cats. I would like to have talked to yard dogs and tanagers as if they were my friends and fellow travelers along the sun-tortured highways, intoxicated with a love of God, swollen with charity like a rainbow, in the thoughtless mingling of its hues, connecting two distant fields in its glorious arc. I would like to have seen the world with eyes incapable of anything but wonder, and a tongue fluent only in praise. . Pat Conroy
One must always forgive another's passion. Pat Conroy
I had come to a place where I was meant to be. I don't mean anything so prosaic as a sense of coming home. This was different, very different. It was like arriving at a place much safer than home. Pat Conroy
I've always admired people who give accurate directions, and the tribe is small. Pat Conroy
Good writing is the hardest form of thinking. It involves the agony of turning profoundly difficult thoughts into a lucid form and forcing them into the tightfitting uniform of language, making them visible and clear. Pat Conroy
You're going to act like a happy man. I know, I know. It's the hardest role in the world. Pat Conroy
Teach them the quiet words of kindness, to live beyond themselves. Urge them toward excellence, drive them toward gentleness, pull them deep into yourself, pull them upward toward manhood, but softly like an angel arranging clouds. Let your spirit move through them softly. Pat Conroy