by Frank Conroy
Review by Tara Caimi
I remember reading a book called Body and Soul by Frank Conroy many years ago. My father had loaned it to me, and at the time, I’d never heard of the author. Years later, as I was beginning to toy with the idea of pursuing a degree (not to mention a lifestyle, which is ultimately what it becomes) in creative writing, I heard a radio interview with Frank Conroy. The name immediately struck a chord, and I leafed back through the pages of my memory to Body and Soul. It took mere seconds for the synapses to fire their way to the right connection. It was an unforgettable book. What I read in Frank Conroy’s work is the depth of emotion that does indeed strike deeply rooted, internal chords, which ring long after the book is finished. It’s as if he holds down the emotional sustain pedal so the readers’ feelings reverberate indefinitely. It’s powerful stuff. I suspect only a musician can produce such an effect, but I won’t go so far as to say that for sure.
Less than a month after hearing that radio interview, I heard that Frank Conroy had passed away. And several years later, I had the opportunity to read his memoir Stop Time. As you could have guessed, I was far from disappointed.
In this coming-of-age memoir, Frank Conroy depicts himself as a lost soul with a mother who seems to regard him as an afterthought and a mentally ill father who was present for only the first few years of his life. Conroy writes of the inspired moments of an otherwise uninspired life, implying the hope of one day escaping his unsatisfactory conditions. Though the memoir is chronological, Conroy’s primarily serious tone takes on a dreamlike quality at times, describing his emotional state of mind in almost metaphysical terms. Stop-Time is a beautifully written account of a boy who somehow finds his way through the extraordinary growing pains of a wayward and lonely adolescence.