Many of you know I won some cosmic lottery and ended up working for the great Pat Conroy, part-time. This is my second go-round with Pat – I worked for him 20 years ago – and while the job’s not always glamorous (a lot of typing involved), it’s always fun. One of the best perks is that I get to hang out with Pat in his office sometimes and talk about books. We’re reading manuscripts by SC writers – both new and established – for USC Press’s new fiction imprint, Story River Books, of which Pat is editor-at-large.
Anyway… the other day something fabulous and completely unprecedented occurred. I found myself knowing more about a certain writer than Pat did – that never happens! – and it’s a writer who’s long had a permanent residence in my heart. We were talking about some Story River manuscript, when all of a sudden Pat asked me if I’d ever heard of the Inklings. (Hello?!) “Why yes, I believe I have,” said I to my far-more-learned and much-better-read mentor. As it turns out, Pat has a new thing for fantasy lit, and has just been discovering C.S. Lewis. He came to the Narnia books late, after seeing the movies, and I don’t think he’s read much of Lewis’ adult work, but is eager to.
And now, here’s the best part. I must paraphrase, because I don’t remember his exact words, but Pat said something like this:
I was talking to a writer friend of mine the other day, and I told him how much I wished I had a group like the Inklings. Wouldn’t that be great? I said that the big difference between those writers and a lot of writers working today is that, for those guys, the question of God was always on the table. Maybe you struggled with the idea of God. Maybe you rejected it altogether. But the question was always on the table. It mattered, and it mattered a lot. So many writers I know today don’t even address the question. They’re not even God-curious. I still think that’s the difference between a great writer and a merely good writer. Great writers – whether they’re believers or not – are God-haunted.
So, yeah. There I was, sitting in the gloriously disheveled office of a man who was my living literary hero before I ever met him, who is now my employer and friend, shooting the breeze about my beloved C.S. Lewis . . . and then he goes and says that?!?! (Or a facsimile thereof.)
For a God-haunted girl like me, it just doesn’t get any better.