February is filled with events linked to the One Book, One Columbia program and this year’s featured subject, My Reading Life by Pat Conroy.
The goal of the annual program is to connect the community through a shared reading experience. Conroy’s novels — mostly thinly veiled stories that spring from his personal history — include an element not just of shared reading, but also of shared life for South Carolina residents.
His novel The Lords of Discipline about a military academy in Charleston made him persona non grata for many years on the campus of The Citadel, his alma mater. Columbia has plenty of fellow alumni — you see “The Ring” on many a hand.
Other Conroy novels like The Prince of Tides and South of Broad offer similar connections for many people’s lives.
So the choice of My Reading Life for One Book, One Columbia was a natural one. It’s a memoir of the books, authors and events that shaped Conroy’s life.
The capstone for events connected with this year’s One Book program is an appearance by Conroy on Feb. 27 at the Township Auditorium. Historian Walter Edgar will interview Conroy, and the author will be signing his books. The program is free. Tickets are available at all branches of the Richland Library.
Here are some other highlights:
• Feb. 6 at 6:30 p.m. at the Richland Library will be a discussion by what the library describes as notable figures in the community about books and authors that influenced their lives.
• Feb. 13 at 6:30 p.m. at the Richland Library will be a program on post-traumatic stress disorder and the struggles of the dysfunctional military family in Conroy’s book The Great Santini.
• The Nickelodeon will show The Great Santini at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 19. Robert Duvall won an Oscar nomination as best actor in the title role. Regular admission prices will apply.
• Most of the Richland Library branches have scheduled group discussions on My Reading Life during the month.
Visit richlandlibrary.com/onebook and onecolumbiasc.com for other details.
In keeping with the central book’s theme, Richland Library invited people from the community to write brief items about favorite books or authors. The results were compiled by the University of South Carolina Press. Following are some of the submissions. Others will appear in this column over the rest of the month.
• Frank Thompson: “Tour guide. Bon vivant. Raconteur. Aficionado of fart humor and European philosophy. Small-town storyteller and keenly focused lens observing advanced science at nose’s length. Eternal adolescent and worldly sophisticate. Bill Bryson’s entirety is hardly described by these words, but they do offer a decent start.”
• Benjamin W. Farley, novelist and retired professor of philosophy: “Oh, but this is a hard one! But Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych is a must read. Why? Because he takes you into his life, his accident, his values as a career Czarist official, now swept away, all of that former life meaningless, as he lies in agony, suffering from cancer, or sits at his desk, realizing that his ‘life has been lived for all the wrong reasons.’ But the clincher is what the story does to you, yes, you, the reader. For he makes us ask, ‘What if my life has been lived for all the wrong reasons and cannot be justified.’ Ah, Columbia, if you’ve never read it, plunge into it now while there is still time to justify your life.”
• Lorraine Faulds: “If you are fascinated by dead bodies, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach is the book for you! From cadavers donated to science to the use of them in car crash tests, the author creates wonderful, easy-to-read scenes, using her scientific background, outstanding turn-of-phrase, and witty humor to make even the potentially disgusting topic of dead bodies interesting!”
• Cindi Boiter, editor of Jasper magazine: “I read Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy as a twenty-something prepping for my first trip to Italy and it changed not just the way I experienced that trip, but the way I experience all travel and all art. Now I want all the background I can find on artists I love.”
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