I love to read about writers reading. I devoured The Road to Xanadu, an immense scholarly study of Coleridge's vast literary diet on his way to delivering "Kubla Khan". I delight in Jorge Luis Borges' accounts of his passionate lifelong love affair with books, and in the bookish essays that stud Mircea Eiade's journals and autobiographies.
Pat Conroy's memoir My Reading Life has prompted me to publish more of my adventures in reading and how they spill into my experience or the world, and the roads I travel in dreams. Listen to Pat Conroy:
"Writers of the world, if you've got a story, I want to hear it. I promise it will follow me to my last breath. You will hearten me and brace me up for the hard days as they enter my life on the prowl. I reach for a story to save my own life."Conroy's word magic never falters as he gives us his memoir of his life as a reader. He made it his practice to read at least 200 pages a day. "Reading," he insists, "is the most rewarding form of exile and the necessary discipline for a novelist who wants to get better."
Shifting to his own fiction, he declares, "I do not record the world exactly as it comes to me but transform it by making it pass through a prism of fabulous stories I have collected on the way."
Reading was always his approach run to those wild day-nights when he wrote his heart out, completing The Great Santini by writing in a Georgia cabin for 24 hours straight. "The idea of a novel should stir your blood, and you should rise to it like a lion lifting up at the smell of an impala."