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Lit: A Memoirby Mary Karr
The best way I can describe this work is to say that it's absolutely delicious. More than a mere memoir, this fascinating jewel contains universal truths, with delicate and elegant phrasing, and, despite the subject matter, there's no sense of frivolous belly-button gazing. Some of the vignettes seem as if they came from a wildly good contemporary novel, while others resonate with a reader's remembrances of his or her own triumphs and disgraces. Karr's latest is not only her best work, but one of the best journeys in the genre.
Synopses & Reviews
The Liars' Club brought to vivid, indelible life Mary Karr's hardscrabble Texas childhood. Cherry, her account of her adolescence, "continued to set the literary standard for making the personal universal" (Entertainment Weekly). Now Lit follows the self-professed blackbelt sinner's descent into the inferno of alcoholism and madness — and to her astonishing resurrection. Karr's longing for a solid family seems secure when her marriage to a handsome, Shakespeare-quoting blueblood poet produces a son they adore. But she can't outrun her apocalyptic past. She drinks herself into the same numbness that nearly devoured her charismatic but troubled mother, reaching the brink of suicide. A hair-raising stint in "The Mental Marriott," with an oddball tribe of gurus and saviors, awakens her to the possibility of joy and leads her to an unlikely faith. Not since Saint Augustine cried, "Give me chastity, Lord — but not yet!" has a conversion story rung with such dark hilarity. Lit is about getting drunk and getting sober; becoming a mother by letting go of a mother; learning to write by learning to live. Written with Karr's relentless honesty, unflinching self-scrutiny, and irreverent, lacerating humor, it is a truly electrifying story of how to grow up — as only Mary Karr can tell it.
"Karr returns with her third account (after The Liar's Club and Cherry) of her dark and drunken years as a newlywed and new mother, written to help her son get the whole tale of their early years together. Before she wrote memoirs, Karr was driven with a vagabond spirit toward poetry, whose origins she traces to the rural colloquialisms of her Texas roots. That poetic sensibility infuses every sentence of her story with an alliterative and symbolic energy, conjuring echoes of poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, and occasionally, Sylvia Plath. She even marries a fellow poet, a moneyed and controlling man named Warren. Unlike Plath, however, Karr's impulse toward self-destruction originates more from the example set by her larger-than-life, emotionally stunted parents, who were often her drinking partners. Her slow trudge toward writing success and her marriage to yet another man who comes from wealth set off her drinking in earnest. Soon she's drinking daily at all hours, hiding it in shame. Years later she obtains sobriety but not mental health, and checks into a hospital after a halfhearted suicide attempt. What heals her most deeply, however, is when she opens herself to prayer. Fortunately, Karr's wry wit and deft prose do not render her slow conversion to Catholicism in a sentimental or proselytizing manner." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.)
"Will ring as true in American-lit classrooms as in church support groups — an absolute gem that secures Karr's place as one of the best memoirists of her generation." Kirkus Reviews
"That Karr survived...to become the evenhanded, self-disciplined writer she is today is arguably nothing short of a miracle, and readers of her previous two books won't be disappointed." Library Journal
"Chronicles with searching intelligence, humor and grace the author's slow, sometimes exhilarating, sometimes painful discovery of her vocation and her voice as a poet and writer." New York Times
"Mary Karr has never lacked for material. But she's always delivered on the craft side, too, with her poet's gift for show-and-tell." Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Lit matches its predecessors in candor and outstrips them in insight." Commonweal
In Lit, the long-awaited sequel to her New York Times bestselling memoirs The Liars' Club and Cherry, Mary Karr chronicles her descent into the inferno of alcoholism and madness, and her astonishing resurrection.
A recollection of her struggle to come to terms with her Christian faith after years as an agnostic that explores the relationship between spirituality and substance abuse and depression, Lit is also about getting drunk and getting sober; becoming a mother by letting go of a mother; and learning to write by learning to live.
Mary Karrs bestselling, unforgettable sequel to her beloved memoirs The Liars Club and Cherry—and one of the most critically acclaimed books of the year—Lit is about getting drunk and getting sober; becoming a mother by letting go of a mother; learning to write by learning to live.
The Boston Globe calls Lit a book that “reminds us not only how compelling personal stories can be, but how, in the hands of a master, they can transmute into the highest art." The New York Times Book Review calls it “a master class on the art of the memoir” in its Top 10 Books of 2009 Citation. Michiko Kakutani calls it “a book that lassos you, hogties your emotions and wont let you go” in her New York Times review. And Susan Cheever states, simply, that Lit is “the best book about being a woman in America I have read in years."
In addition to the New York Times, Lit was named a Best Book of 2009 by the New Yorker (Reviewer Favorite), Entertainment Weekly (Top 10), Time (Top 10), the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Chicago Tribune, the Christian Science Monitor, Slate, the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and the Seattle Times.
About the Author
Mary Karr is an award-winning poet and best-selling memoirist. She is the author of Lit, the long-awaited sequel to her critically acclaimed and New York Times bestselling memoirs The Liars' Club and Cherry. A born raconteur, she brings to her lectures and talks the same wit, irreverence, joy, and sorrow found in her poetry and prose. A sought-after speaker, Karr has given distinguished talks at prestigious universities, libraries, and writers' festivals, including Harvard University, Oxford University, Princeton University, Brown University, Syracuse University ("On Salmon Rushdie" with Salmon Rushdie), the New York Public Library, the Los Angeles Public Library, the Folger Library (Poetry Society of America/Emily Dickinson Lecture), The New Yorker Literary Festival, PEN/Faulkner, and the Festival of Faith and Writing.
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