Authors and Citadel classmates Pat Conroy and John Warley discuss The Great Santini‘s legacy.
By Amy Paige Condon
I read somewhere that writing may destroy your life, so you might as well tell a story worthy of that.
These words return to me as I settle into Pat Conroy’s My Reading Life, where Conroy recounts bestowing the character Ben Meecham, the dutiful son of a marine fighter pilot in The Great Santini, his own story of physical abuse and “unbearable solitude” at the hands of a bold and domineering military father. Writing The Great Santini would cost Conroy his first marriage, his sanity for a time and some family members because the book’s capital-T truths opened deep wounds, never fully dressed and never properly healed.
Yet, the autobiographical novel, later adapted into an Academy Award-nominated film, offered an unexpected gift: It forced Pat’s father Don Conroy to confront the fact that his seven children were casualties of the war he fought at home. For the rest of his life, Don worked to repair the fractured relationships left in his wake, and became the father Pat Conroy never had while growing up.
Today, Conroy is writing The Death of Santini, a valentine to his late father that chronicles those tender final days of a man who finally achieved peace with his children. In this interview, Conroy and attorney/author John Warley, his close friend since their days at The Citadel and a fellow Beaufort resident, discuss the life and death of Santini.
Courtesy of Savannah Book Festival
Video by Blue Voyage Productions