There's no doubt that many people will disagree with me, but in my opinion, the finest living American writer is Pat Conroy. I say this despite -- or because of -- the fact that every time I read or reread one of his books, Conroy's prose forces me to realize how inadequate my own writing is. There is no one alive who can describe a tree, a flower, a feeling, a woman, or a sunset as beautifully as this man with deep roots in the American South.
"The beauty of language, shaped in sentences as pretty as blue herons, brought me to my knees with pleasure. I did not know that words could pour through me like honey through a burst hive or that gardens seeded in dark secrecy could bloom along the borders of my half-ruined boyhood because a writer could touch me in all the broken places with his art." "He made the English language seem like a tongue he had invented himself."
If I possessed the skill, I would write the above words in praise of Pat Conroy. Instead, I'm left with having to turn his own words (about other writers) on himself. In his latest book, My Reading Life, he has articulated, as only he could, my feeling for the beauty of his prose. Thank you, Pat Conroy!