Does anyone remember Melanie, who sang “Look what they’ve done to my song”? My favorite part of it was this verse:
“I wish I could find a good book to live in
Wish I could find a good book
Well if I could find a real good book
I’d never have to come out and look at
What they done to my song.”
There are so many times when I would like to find a good book to live in….if I had my choice, it would be something of Pat Conroy’s, now sadly gone from our ranks. I would live in either “Beach Music” or “South of Broad.” If you have never read either of them, please do yourself a favor and read them—slowly. They will take you away to places you may never have dreamed of.
While he was a southern writer and I am not southern, I too fell deeply and completely in love with Charleston, SC. Mom and I took two memorable trips there, and loved every minute.
Even the sidewalks there have personality; they are made from what they call “tabby,” which is essentially concrete with ground-up oyster shells in it. From good old Wikapedia, here’s more info:
“Limestone to make building lime was not available to early settlers so lime was imported or made from oyster shells. Shell middens along the coast proved to be a supply of shells to make tabby which diffused from two primary centers or hearths: one at Saint Augustine, Florida, and the other at Beaufort, South Carolina.
The earliest known use of tabby was near Beaufort, South Carolina area, formerly known as Santa Elena which was the capital of Spanish Florida from 1566 to 1587.“
It is so unique-looking; soft gray with sprinkles of light-reflecting mica-like chips. As a newcomer to the city, I couldn’t help looking at it.
And then there is the smell of pluff mud, which is a dark, soft sediment typical of the marshes of South Carolina. It is full of decay; spartina grasses, fish, crabs, shrimp and who knows what-all marine life. Since there is so much bacteria to break down in pluff mud, hydrogen sulfide is released, which is exactly the pungent stink of rotten eggs.
However, to a Mainer like me, it smelled close enough to Atlantic mud to make me feel both homesick and at home. It became part and parcel of the joy of my time in Charleston.
I could go on and on about our two trips there; the fabulous dinner at Elizabeth’s, the seafood at Pookin’s Porch, the way the moon seemed larger and more glamorous than at home…..the plantation tour we took, the little house we rented for our stay, and the yellow cat belonging to the owners who became our “watch cat” each night.
We enjoyed eating benne wafers; tiny, crisp buttery cookies made with sesame seeds. We visited the factory that makes them, and brought home tins of them as gifts for friends. We often visited a wonderful jewelry store, run by a lovely Russian man. Each time we went in, he would drop what he was doing, clasp his hands together, smile invitingly and say in his wonderful accent, “Challo, ladyes!”
Pat Conroy was born in Atlanta, GA, a true Southern man. Even though he was, as my mother would say, rough as a cob, he was a wonderful writer who had the ability to put charm you right into his stories. Truly, if I had a choice, it would be just about any of his books I would live in. But again, “Beach Music” and “South of Broad” are my favorites.
So, how about you? Is there a particular book that you would like to live in?