In 1991, the summer I was 15, I got an internship that I wasn’t qualified for in Washington and lived with my aunt, uncle and cousins in the suburbs of Maryland. After days spent feigning professional competence on Capitol Hill, I’d go in the early evenings with my relatives to the neighborhood pool and not swim; perhaps for the same reason, when my aunt tried to take me on a tour of Georgetown University one weekend, I refused to get out of the car and instead remained in the parking lot. Despite my adolescent glowering, there was one activity I participated in with unabashed enthusiasm, which was reading. I tore through book after book that summer, and my favorites were Pat Conroy’s novels: The Lords of Discipline, The Great Santini and The Prince of Tides. I loved their emotional richness, their complicated plots, the beauty of their language and their distinct sense of place, all of them at least partly set in South Carolina. I am — thank goodness — very different now from the teenager I was back then, and I haven’t read Pat Conroy since, but I still feel grateful for how his stories transported me away from myself.
Sittenfeld’s latest novel is Sisterland
Next Rachel Kushner