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The Liars' Club by Mary Karr
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The Liars' Club

by Mary Karr

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Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
Reading the reviews of this book I see most praise it for the way it is written, for its ability to evoke local colloquialisms, for its exceptional character development (even though it is largely non-fiction), and as “wickedly funny.” It is this last description I take issue with. I didn’t find it funny at all, in fact I found it thoroughly unpleasant.

I’m not usually one to wallow in the dysfunction of others, particularly when it has no resonance for my own life. While I do agree with the humorous observation that the definition of a dysfunctional family is any family with more than one member, I don’t find experiencing that dysfunction at all enjoyable. The only reason I read it is because it was next on my list of books to read. It didn’t really make me want to read the sequel, or to see the movie that is in production.

This work is an autobiographical-”ish” description of the childhood of the author, Mary Karr. As we move from one unpleasant event to another we are introduced to her alcoholic parents – a loving but sometimes inattentive father, an oversexed, mentally ill mother, a controlling, somewhat bossy sister – and other supporting characters. The whole work is beautifully written, really well organized in a sort of linear, non-linear way (best way I can describe it), and in fact, I agree with most of the praise it is getting…except that I did not find it funny, or enjoyable.

My skeptic-alarm went off in a few instances while I was reading this. First, the author is recounting events that occurred when she was a small child. While she does note places where her memory is not exact, she remembered an awful lot of detail for being an 8 year old kid…hyper resolved descriptions of scenes, and verbatim descriptions of conversations. I certainly don’t have that kind of recall. I’m not saying the author is deliberately making things up, but I can’t help but believe there is some exaggerating going on. Second, with the exception of a couple of vignettes she seems to go out of her way to gloss over anything pleasant or uplifting that might have happened to her. And those instances where she did you just knew it was a prelude to something horrific.

I can see why writing this book would be cathartic for Mary Karr, and I can see why it would be popular with those that might have had some of the same experiences, which I think probably accounts for its popularity. As a work of literature it deserves the praise it received. Since my life resembles nothing like what she experienced I mainly found it an unpleasant trip through the dysfunction of another family. ( )
  mybucketlistofbooks | Jan 10, 2015 |
Well written but depressing as hell! The confluence of her parents' vastly different worlds sparked a tension and conflict of mammoth proportions. That their world endured, however chaotically, was surprising. That Mary Karr evolved from that world without sociopathic tendencies is astonishing. If I read that Karr had a complete, total breakdown, I would not be surprised in the least. ( )
  AliceAnna | Oct 22, 2014 |
I had a mental block against reading The Liars' Club: A Memoir by Mary Karr (1995) since 1995 was right in the heart of my time working at Barnes and Noble and The Liars' Club was a runaway best seller. Anything that was a best seller in the late-1990s makes me wary after all the time I spent sticking on and taking off 30% and 20% off stickers and restocking the shelves at the front of the store. My DAFFODILS book club, however, decided to read something from the 1990s and when this was was suggested, the nearly 20 years since I had to deal with those discount stickers disappeared and I finally felt ready to dive in.

[full review here: http://spacebeer.blogspot.com/2014/09/the-liars-club-memoir-by-mary-karr-1995.ht... ] ( )
  kristykay22 | Sep 1, 2014 |
48. The Liars' Club by Mary Karr (1995, 326 page paperback, Read August 15-24)

To some degree I encountered a childhood memoir just like this once before, in [The Glass Castle] by Jeanette Walls (published in 2005), which leaves me to wonder if there is a literary theme of the experiences of 1960's era children of somewhat well-educated white alcoholics. I'm over simplifying, since, for example, it would be difficult to call either of Mary Karr's parents well educated even if her mother spent her life immersed in Jean Paul Sartre.

Karr's memoir is mainly about two or three exceptionally hectic years in her rather crazy childhood. She grew up in the shadow of east Texas oil refineries, where her father worked. Her mother didn't quite do anything, including keep house. Her life takes its first dramatic change when her maternal grandmother comes to live in her house while undergoing rather gruesome and eventually failed treatment for cancer. Her grandmother mans the house as a damning judge,exposing the not-normal aspects of their lives. Then, when her grandmother finally passes, Mary's mother becomes unhinged. The alcoholism exaggerates, and she goes on a several different varieties of what I might call insane binges that basically don't stop until she runs out of money. Caught in the midst of all this is Mary and her older sister, and, her alcoholic father, who gets his own character study. The Liar's Club is the small group her father hangs out with at bars to tell crazy, generally made up an exaggerated stories - stories her father excels at.

The consequences to Mary and her sister are touched on, but not explored in depth. And, despite these consequences, this is not an angry memoir. It's maybe something more of a character study of her parents, or an exploration into parents who had so much say, but gave so little about themselves away. In my 10th anniversary edition every blurb in the book talks about how funny or "hilarious" this book is, which is, I think, an odd thing to take away as it's a bitter humor. I found it sad. But it is quite fascinating - in it's character studies of her parents, in the exploration of world around Mary that she was exposed to, and in her own young response to all this. ( )
1 vote dchaikin | Aug 25, 2014 |
Good book. However, the narrator was somewhat detached when discussing her life. Very sad story. It did not feel like the 1960's. ( )
  shazjhb | Aug 3, 2014 |
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My sharpest memory is of a single instant surrounded by dark.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0143035746, Paperback)

In this funny, razor-edged memoir, Mary Karr, a prize-winning poet and critic, looks back at her upbringing in a swampy East Texas refinery town with a volatile, defiantly loving family. She recalls her painter mother, seven times married, whose outlaw spirit could tip into psychosis; a fist-swinging father who spun tales with his cronies--dubbed the Liars' Club; and a neighborhood rape when she was eight. An inheritance was squandered, endless bottles emptied, and guns leveled at the deserving and undeserving. With a raw authenticity stripped of self-pity and a poet's eye for the lyrical detail, Karr shows us a "terrific family of liars and drunks ... redeemed by a slow unearthing of truth."

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:28:49 -0400)

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The author, a poet, recounts her difficult childhood growing up in a Texas oil town.

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