Soixante-neuf…Sixty-nine. As much as I flirt with alternatives, I end up wearing a navy blazer sixty-nine percent of the time. Rain or shine, summer or winter, it’s a navy damn blazer for me. And I’ve just added yet another one to the fold.
Ok, I’m now off the hook for positing something about clothes so let’s move on to my open letter to Pat.
My buddy Lou owns a house on Fripp around the corner from you and says that he sees you from time to time at CVS. He says that you look ok but my selfish ass wants to admonish you to get crackin’ on another novel. Fast like. Enough already with these interim books.
Don’t get me wrong, Pat. I’m digging all these little placeholder books that you’ve published and I’m sure the cash flow from them is stronger than wolf nookie and really, who doesn’t fancy cash and a steady flow of it? And wolf nookie? I don’t know. But I’ll stand by the metaphor.
And these interim Conroy books aren’t where you want your home-stretch legacy to live. In your heart of hearts you too know that another Beach Music or Prince of Tides is what we need. Come on Pat, we need another novel.
I loved My Reading Life. I really did. It opened my eyes once again to the tortured genius of Thomas Wolfe. And My Losing Season was ok, too. Truth? I’ve read every f_cking word you’ve published. I even gave My Reading Life to one of my surrogate dad’s—the guy who hired me on at a Swiss Pharma company when I was a kid.
|Photo borrowed from my buddy Reggie Darling|
He’s the guy who first gave me Mrs. Whaley and Her Charleston Garden and told me that there were as many line management lessons to be learned therein as there were gardening tips. Most people wouldn’t a got it. But I did and you’d a gotten it too. Like me, he made his way into an industry that provided well for him but his true passions were elsewhere. He has an English degree from Carolina and I’m convinced that he hired me because he saw in me the same right-brained energy that he loved about himself. And like me, he never had a dad.
And Pat, Flo just made me aware of The Death of Santini. I could order it from Amazon but it won’t get to me till Tuesday. And I can’t wait that long. I’m gonna pay more for it and pick it up at Barnes and Noble so that I can read it tonight. I’ll sponge it up because for some reason these books….with their pathos confessed, violations reported, unrequited whatevers, and the frail treaties that at least some of you assholes were able to cobble with your dads still draws me in like a moth to flame. You’d think I’d get enough of this formulaic caca but the half-life of any insights gained is for me a nanosecond. And the close-that-hole-in-my-heart unguent schmear offered therein wears off before I finish these kinda shitty books. Don’t be angry, Pat. It’s me, not you.
You might think that my pithiness is uncalled for and my bitterness should be better managed by now. On the other hand, I bet not. Because it’s obvious that like me with my dad, you are still trying to work out your shit with Colonel Conroy, even after the guy co-signed books with you amidst your tentative peace.
And the record shows a few photos of you and your dad, post Great Santini where he looks smug and self-satisfied and you look like you always do. In every photograph…frail and tentative. You’ve never lost that look you know. Neither have I. The frail tentativeness of your gangly adolescence is simply replaced fifty years later with an edematous version of the same. And I’m right behind you old sport. Genetics keep me from being as Humpty Dumpty gelatinous as you but my nose is getting bigger and purple-er by the month. So I’ll read your damn book but what I want to read is one of those big-ass novels of yours with imagery that blasts off the page and wraps around my head in ways that make me forget the rest of the world for at least an hour or two.
Just so you’re confident that it’s me, not you...and just so you know that you aren't alone in your working shit out with daddy pathos, here are a pile of other books that I’ve read and re-read on the subject. You and I aren’t special, buddy. After the death of my friend’s dad and my listening to Dickey read his Buckhead Boys poem over and over, I re-read Summer of Deliverance in one sitting week before last. Dickey at fils et al is a bell ringer and the pathos, while not as physical as the ass whippings that Colonel Conroy put on you, are just as strong. My dad was more Dickey than your dad Conroy but was probably more of a physical coward than either.
Flusser led me to Merkin and then to Frazier. I’ve read Another Man’s Poison countless times and for some reason I tend to keep this little book in my reference pile. The sartorial pearls are intriguing but the examples of Frazier’s writing are what's so damn stellar. But then there’s his broken marriage and his protracted house of cards financial ruinous state while still deeply loving his two cast here and there amidst divorce drama sons. It’s this spore in the story that mighta fuelled the four hour dinner I had with one of his sons a couple of years ago. Of all the failed dads in this load of ADG drivel, I think Frazier showed that he loved his boys better than the rest of 'em. And that's a low-ass bar I'm setting. Let me tell you.
And God knows that the Wolff brothers might’ve had the wildest story to tell about dads. Narcissistic sociopaths rarely make for good fathers. But damn…my goodness, the adventures they can take you on.
Pat, I really wish that Blake Bailey’s Cheever had been three hundred pages shorter. Of all these dad pathos books, this is the one that had me saying every other page… “this is my dad, this was my life”. And Federico Cheever…Fred Cheever seemed to be me. After I finished the book, I even tracked down Fred Cheever and was going to send him an email telling him that I’d lived his same journey. But then I thought better of it. He seems to have put all this junk to rest better than most of us.
So Pat, thanks for the new book. I’m sure I’ll hoover it up in a sitting or two. But please, no more of this shit till we get another novel. Now let me slip on a navy blazer and head over to Barnes and Noble.
Onward. Sixty-nine percent of the damn time.
And what the hell? How 'bout some Color Him Father by the Winstons.