10 April 2005

Frank Conroy 1936-2005

"Stop Time"
was Conroy's lucid and evocative 1967 memoir that became a model for countless young writers - the sort of book that is quietly passed along like a trade secret.

Frank Conroy, the author of the classic memoir "Stop-Time", an influence on generations of young writers, died last week at his home in Iowa City.

Mr. Conroy, who headed the Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa for 18 years, published just five books, a relatively small number for a writer of his reputation.

After Conroy moved to New York in 1959, he became a hanger-on at Elaine's, the literary watering hole, where, as the writer David Halberstam recalled, "he at first annoyed some of the regulars, who wondered who this brash young kid was...then Stop-Time came out, and we all shut up."

Though it sold only modestly at first, it one of the rare books to have been blurbed by both Norman Mailer and William Styron, which made Conroy a literary celebrity.

Conroy supported himself, his wives and children between books by working as a scallop fisherman in Nantucket, playing jazz piano and writing about jazz. In 1978 he taught at Iowa as a replacement and discovered he liked teaching and was good at it.

Mr. Conroy was a good enough jazz pianist to have jammed with Charles Mingus. In his 2002 essay collection Dogs Bark, but the Caravan Rolls On, Conroy recalled how he once apologized to Mingus for being a klutz. "You are an authentic primitive," Mingus told him, "but you also swing."


Anonymous said...

Wow. thanks for this...I'm picking it up tomorrow at the book store

o'whitney said...

Conroy was a fantastic writer
i havent seen many blog posts about his death; i appreciate this one enough to leave the dreaded comment

Whiplash said...

Conroy is and was overated