Tuesday, September 22, 2009

South of Broad

I can honestly say that I don't know what I think about the new Pat Conroy novel South of Broad. I read it mostly for its Charleston setting. I had read another of his novels while actually in Charleston and enjoyed it well enough, and this book seemed like it would be even more steeped in the Charleston locale.

I keep wavering back and forth trying to decide whether I actually liked the book or not. At times I found myself liking how Conroy structured the plot, only to later find myself distracted by characters that didn't quite ring true to life. Then, coming full circle, I started to wonder if the characters were so unbelievable that they actually did do an adequate job of portraying believably unusual characters. I still can't decide.

One thing I do know for sure is that reading this reignited my intentions of reading Ulysses. I know, I know, it's bizarre that a fluffy Pat Conroy novel would lead me to some dense James Joyce, but there actually were a lot of references to Ulysses in South of Broad- one of the characters is a Joyce scholar, another shares the name Leopold Bloom with Joyce's main character, and the first chapter of the book follows the narrator around Charleston as he performs a series of daily tasks, just like Ulysses does with Dublin. Of course, I know of all these similarities because of things I've read or heard about Ulysses rather than from actually reading it myself. I'm interested in know if there are more parallels that I missed, so I may have to pull Ulysses off the spot on my shelf where it's sat in wait for the past, say, ten years and give it a higher priority among the books on my To Read list.

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