Friday, September 6, 2013

The Boo by Pat Conroy

As  most readers know, Pat Conroy spent his formative years after high school at The Citadel, a military college in Charleston, SC.  The Boo is Conroy's first book, recently re-edited by him.  It is a memoir of that time, but especially of Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Nugent Courvoisie, the Commandant Of Cadets, nicknamed 'The Boo' by the cadets he oversaw.

Courvoisie was in charge of cadet behavior, and he was feared and respected in equal measures by those young men.  Although those who broke the rules lived in fear until caught by him, he was also capable of great kindness and sometimes even leniency to those in his care.  He thought of the cadets as lambs and he was their shepherd.  He had to be tough to get them through the perils of Citadel life, which would either crush a young man's spirit or toughen him up and give him self-respect for life.

The Boo is a series of vignettes about various infractions that The Boo discovered and the punishments given out.  There are many written explanations in the cadets' own voices, explaining their behavior and asking for forgiveness.  Although punishment was almost always sure, the men were in awe of The Boo and they recognized that he cared deeply for them.  Many spent years afterwards asking for his advice, knowing that he would always be there for a cadet who needed help, no matter how many years had passed.  He was enormously popular with the cadet corp, and when the administration decided to strip him of his job, it was an incredibly unpopular decision.

Pat Conroy is one of America's national treasures, an author whose every book serves to identify and explain the male psyche to the world.  In particular, he has a particular skill in explaining those men with military backgrounds, and those who grew up with alpha fathers and who spent their lives trying to be a success for these men.  The Boo is his first book, and it is raw, but what is noticeable above all is the raw talent that would make Conroy a beloved author.  This book is recommended for Conroy fans, fans of Southern literature, and those interested in what makes a man. 

No comments: