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Lit by Mary Karr


by Mary Karr (Author)

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Two memoirs. One poetry book. One writing book. Yes, it was a Mary Karr week.

My Mary Karr reading frenzy all started quite innocently. I took a writing class last summer at Inprint in Houston. Our teacher told us Mary Karr was coming to Houston in September. I spontaneously decided to buy a ticket, vaguely remembering that I'd read her first memoir, Liar's Club, back twenty years ago or so. When the date of Karr's reading approached, I was exhausted by all the beginning-of-the-year stuff we teachers experience but I remembered a book was included in the price of the reading, and I didn't want to miss out on picking up that book. So I reluctantly decided to go. When I googled the address of the reading, I was surprised to see that it was being held in a church. Must not have been able to book the Wortham for that night, I thought.

I was wrong. It was no accident that Mary Karr was at Christ Church Cathedral, an Episcopal Church in downtown Houston, built in 1839; all her readings were being held in churches.

I was intrigued. An author in a church. Imagine that.

Mary Karr was fascinating. "I was a strange child," she told her audience at the reading. "I was not a happy child. But there was something about reading memoirs that made me feel less lonely." Karr shared her new book, The Art of Memoir, and suggested that through our stories we manufacture a self. "Writing a memoir is like knocking yourself out with your own fist," she told us.

All her books, Karr explained, could be summed up: "I am sad. The end."

In her life, Karr survived her alcoholic and dysfunctional parents to become an alcoholic and dysfunctional parent herself. And somehow she broke free of all that, mysteriously embracing both writing and the Catholic Church.

Mary Karr is a little older, a little less functional Texas-rooted me. Like me, she has both the redneck-storytelling people and the salvation-through-reading people in her family tree.

That was enough. I raced home from the reading and put everything I could find of Mary Karr's on hold at the library. I was amazed to find that not only were all three of her memoirs at the library, but that I could also check out and read one of her books of poetry.

I'll just tell you that her books are mostly "I am sad." But, happily, there is a little more there before "The end."

Beautiful writing. Sad stories. And redemption. Mary Karr. ( )
  debnance | Oct 11, 2015 |
Mary Karr can't help writing well. It's the poet in her. But not only that, she also wants to tell us how it was for her. She really wants to reveal it, not to titillate us, but to be seen.

We've all read lots of stories already with the same plot outline. The conversion story. Or the "here's how I was saved" story. A lesser writer would have done it the same old way but she made it new. ( )
1 vote Gimley_Farb | Jul 6, 2015 |
This is a sequel, but "lit" is the first work I have read by this offer. I'd say this book is a lot like the hard liquor she battled so hard to kick. It looks pretty in the package, but burns when you first try to ingest it. Soon you're over the initial shock and a warmth spreads over you. I definitely recommend this book, but I couldn't read too many like this in a row. ( )
  dele2451 | Mar 2, 2014 |
Hard to put down. Everything I like in a book chocked into every page. Honest, compelling and deeply heroic. ( )
  Micalhut | Aug 20, 2013 |
Lit. Mary Karr. 2009. This title concludes the trilogy of memoirs, The Liar’s Club and Cherry. In this book Karr basically describes her life when she went to college, got married, had a child and became established as a poet. Karr spent these years getting drunk and trying to deal with her mother and the scars of her dysfunctional childhood. The book reminds me of The Glass Castle. Karr relates the events of these years with brutal honesty and wit. With the help of AA, her AA friends, and her discovery of faith, Karr pulls herself through this nightmare. If you liked the previous memoirs you’ll like this. Interviews with Karr can be found on YouTube. ( )
  judithrs | Jul 18, 2013 |
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We believe she means every word, fiercely dredging up memories, however wrenching to revisit. At the same time she's keeping a cool eye on what makes a story work.
In a gravelly, ground-glass-under-your-heel voice that can take you from laughter to awe in a few sen­tences, Karr has written the best book about being a woman in America I have read in years.
“Lit” is by no means a perfect performance: the sections dealing with the author’s ex-husband, Warren, feel oddly fuzzy and abstract, but for the reader who can manage to push those sections aside, the book is every bit as absorbing as Ms. Karr’s devastating 1995 memoir, “The Liars’ Club,” which secured her place on the literary map.
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The author reveals how, shortly after giving birth to a child she adored, she drank herself into the same numbness that nearly devoured her charismatic but troubled mother, reaching the brink of suicide before a spiritual awakening led her to sobriety.… (more)

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