NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * A deeply affecting coming-of-age memoir about family, love, loss, basketball--and life itself--by the beloved author of The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini During one unforgettable season as a Citadel cadet, Pat Conroy becomes part of a basketball team that is ultimately destined to fail. And yet for a military kid who grew up on the move, the Bulldogs provide a sanctuary from the cold, abrasive father who dominates his life--and a crucible for becoming his own man. With all the drama and incandescence of his bestselling fiction, Conroy re-creates his pivotal senior year as captain of the Citadel Bulldogs. He chronicles the highs and lows of that fateful 1966-67 season, his tough disciplinarian coach, the joys of winning, and the hard-won lessons of losing. Most of all, he recounts how a group of boys came together as a team, playing a sport that would become a metaphor for a man whose spirit could never be defeated. Praise for My Losing Season "A superb accomplishment, maybe the finest book Pat Conroy has written."--The Washington Post Book World "A wonderfully rich memoir that you don't have to be a sports fan to love."--Houston Chronicle "A memoir with all the Conroy trademarks . . . Here's ample proof that losers always tell the best stories."--Newsweek "In My Losing Season, Conroy opens his arms wide to embrace his difficult past and almost everyone in it."--New York Daily News "Haunting, bittersweet and as compelling as his bestselling fiction."--Boston Herald
Conroy is a master of language. His words dance, spin and stab like few other authors. I've had to read passages of his books aloud because they're so beautiful. The family knows by now, when I'm reading Conroy, to expect, "Oh, listen to this." His descriptions are poetry, yet I've never felt like he crosses the line into just diddling with beautiful words just because he can. He's also the author who has best given this overly estrogen saturated female a comprehensible glimpse into the mysteries of the male psyche. I enjoyed The Prince of Tides as a movie as long as I didn't think too hard or long about the book. The movie became a story for women. Only glimpses of the terror and agony that made this very much a man's tale showed through. The Lords of Discipline, The Great Santini, The Water is Wide, Beach Music and The Boo reek of delectably prime testosterone, and My Losing Season places that aroma right in the heart of a locker room.
What draws me to Conroy though is not just the sheer masculinity of his novels. It's the vulnerability, the secret weapon of the most dangerous men. I've fallen a little bit in love with Ben Meecham, Will McLean, Tom Wingo and Jack McCall. It would be hard not to with those manly, outdoorsy men who can cook, admit to both intentionally and inadvertently seriously hurting the women in their lives, cry and love being daddies. He's also damn good at letting people see what it's like being a white Southerner caught between what's hateful, ridiculous and glorious about our part of this American subculture.
Despite my almost but not quite silly state of Conroy fandom, I still put off reading My Losing Season until I was too sick to get up and find another book. This literal autobiography began with a confession of mediocrity and went on to tell how Conroy ended being a basketball player and how he became a writer. (I got chills at the scene where he was asked to autograph one of his books at the desk where William Faulkner had written Absalom, Absalom!) I loved reading about his growing confidence as a young man, a basketball player and writer. The simplicity he used to show the pains and joys in his life as a military brat, his reconciliation with his father and The Citadel, the reunion of his team and seeing his old coach again made me want to strip every bit of sentimentality from my writing and make it as real as I can.
I loved this book just as I expected to, but I had to be ready to be honest with myself before I could read it. That was why I delayed, and ultimately why Pat Conroy is one of my favorite writers. I cannot avoid being grimly honest about my life and my talents when I read his books, but I always come away with the knowledge that brilliance burned through and past the mediocrities in his characters and the hope that it can do the same with me.
This is one of those books. My Losing Season is about Pat’s last year as point guard and captain of The 1966-67 Citadel Bulldogs and about his childhood with a strict and abusive father which defined him as a man.
When I say “Pat Conroy” in my head or out loud, I hear the voice of Jay O. Sanders who read the book. Jay has a slightly southern accent that fits perfectly with the book. While listening, I wondered how many times Jay read the book to know when to put feeling and passion into the dialog because he does a fantastic job.
Now granted, some people don’t like sports or some people can take it or leave it. I work in sports and I love sports. I’m not obsessed, but I enjoy a good game of basketball where the players play their hearts out and leave all of it on the court. During the Bulldogs’ losing season, you felt the passion and love of the game; you felt just how hard they fought. I found myself cheering for them even though the games were played back in 1966 and 1967. I cried after Pat had the best game of his life and his Dad still called him a loser and shoved him up against a wall.
I cried and laughed while driving to and from work. I sat in my car in the parking garage before work as I finished listening to the book, surprised by the afterward by the author himself (I should have read the cover closer).
His short speech left me sobbing in the car, tears streaming down my face as I walked into work and got on the elevator.
I’m glad I decided to take a chance on this book. I’m glad I listened to it during March Madness as the Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship roared into town and I will listen to it every March Madness as Pat reminds me each time that you have to believe in yourself. Not everyone will be affected by Pat’s story as I was, but that’s okay. I’m just glad I got to experience the 1966-67 Citadel basketball team’s losing season and the young man of Pat Conroy.
Took me almost 8 years to finish this one. I love Conroy but am not a basketball fan. Listening to the audiobook helped, though.