The Art of Memoir By Mary Karr

 

An Amazon Best Book of September 2015: Thanks to celebrated works like The Liar’s Club, Lit, and Cherry, many would argue that Mary Karr put memoirs on the map. She has a thing or two to say about that in The Art of Memoir, a distillation of over 30 years of writing and teaching the form. While it certainly should be required reading for anyone wanting to become the next Cheryl Strayed (whom Karr mentored), it has much on offer for those of us who have no intentions of laying ourselves bare on the page. By examining her favorite memoirs in her signature smart, irreverent style–and with contagious affection–Karr explains why they resonate with us: Memoirs are a means to make sense of a life; they reveal the sometimes skewed ways in which we see ourselves, and how those perceptions betray our frailties, and our strengths. If you’re wondering if Karr touches on charlatan “memoirists” like infamous Oprah punching bag, James Frey, she does. But only to point out the important distinctions between the malleability of memory, and simply making stuff up. Also, why are we so gullible in believing those fictions? A warning that your reading list is going to grow the further you venture into this book—Karr’s love for memoirs like Vladimir Nabokov’s Speak, Memory and Maxine Hong Kingston’s Woman Warrior just oozes off the page, and it’s hard not getting some of that on you. You’ll be better off if you just let it. –Erin Kodicek

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“Karr is a national treasure—that rare genius who’s also a brilliant teacher. This joyful celebration of memoir packs transcendent insights with trademark hilarity. Anyone yearning to write will be inspired, and anyone passionate to live an examined life will fall in love with language and literature all over again. ” (George Saunders)

The Art of Memoir is passionate and irreverent-and reminds us why we love a good memoir.” (Elle)

“Mary Karr has written another astonishingly perceptive, wildly entertaining, and profoundly honest book-funny, fascinating, necessary. The Art of Memoir will be the definitive book on reading and writing memoir for years to come.” (Cheryl Strayed)

“Mary Karr strikes a vein in The Art of Memoir.” (Vanity Fair)

“Enlightening….Fresh and heartfelt….Instructs and inspires through example and a love for the art of memoir.” (Library Journal, starred review)

“Karr write[s] exquisitely…and without pretense, often with raw authenticity….a must-read.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

“Snappy and witty, humorous just when it needs to be, yet plainspoken in the best way.” (Shelf Awareness)

“Karr’s sassy Texas wit and her down-to-earth observations about both the memoir form and how to approach it combine to make for lively and inspiring reading. A generous and singularly insightful examination of memoir.” (Kirkus)

“A master class on the art of the memoir. ” (New York Times Book Review, Top 10 Notable Book Citation for Lit)

“Searing. . . . [Karr] has written a book that lassos you, hogties your emotions and won’t let you go.” (New York Times on Lit)

“Karr seems to have been born with the inability to write a dishonest-or boring-sentence.” (Time on Lit)

“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.” (Boston Globe on Lit)

“Irresistible. . . . [Written] with trademark wit, precision, and unfailing courage.” (O, the Oprah Magazine on Lit)

“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.” (New York Times Book Review on Lit)

“Believers and nonbelievers have long been drawn to confessions, like Saint Augustine’s, that read like dispatches from the knock-down drag-out encounter between God and the stubborn sinner. Lit . . . is one of those.” (New York Review of Books on Lit)

“Howlingly funny…. In some ways, Lit is her most intimate book…. The overall impression is of a sorrowful narrative poem as humble and funny as it is beautiful.” (Time on Lit)

“Affecting…. Karr’s lurch toward faith is narrated with her familiar irreverence and humor, but this tone does not preclude a more heartfelt expression of the value of faith.” (The New Yorker on Lit)

“More than a recovery memoir. Karr writes unflinchingly about marriage, class, guilt, and the struggle to make peace with her raw, melodramatic, yet wildly interesting past.” (NPR on Lit)

“Karr could tell you what’s on her grocery list, and its humor would make you bust a gut, its unexpected insights would make you think and her pitch-perfect command of our American vernacular might even take your breath away.” (Los Angeles Times on Lit)

“One of the best memoirists of her generation. . . . A radiant, rueful, rip-roaring book.” (Entertainment Weekly on Lit)

“I was stunned by….The Liar’s Club. Not just by its ferocity, its beauty, and by her delightful grasp of the vernacular, but by its totality—she is a woman who remembers everything about her early years….Mary Karr presents her childhood in an almost unbroken panorama.” (Stephen King on Lit)

 

Credited with sparking the current memoir explosion, Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club spent more than a year at the top of the New York Times list. She followed with two other smash bestsellers: Cherry and Lit, which were critical hits as well.

For thirty years Karr has also taught the form, winning graduate teaching prizes for her highly selective seminar at Syracuse, where she mentored such future acclaimed authors as Cheryl Strayed, Keith Gessen, and Koren Zailckas. In The Art of Memoir, she synthesizes her expertise as professor and therapy patient, writer and spiritual seeker, recovered alcoholic and “black-belt sinner,” providing a unique window into the mechanics and art of the form that is as irreverent, insightful, and entertaining as her own work in the genre.

Anchored by excerpts from her favorite memoirs and anecdotes from fellow writers’ experience, The Art of Memoir lays bare Karr’s own process. (Plus all those inside stories about how she dealt with family and friends get told—and the dark spaces in her own skull probed in depth.) As she breaks down the key elements of great literary memoir, she breaks open our concepts of memory and identity, and illuminates the cathartic power of reflecting on the past; anybody with an inner life or complicated history, whether writer or reader, will relate.

Joining such classics as Stephen King’s On Writing and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, The Art of Memoir is an elegant and accessible exploration of one of today’s most popular literary forms—a tour de force from an accomplished master pulling back the curtain on her craft.

 

The Art of Memoir Book

Credited with sparking the current memoir explosion, Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club spent more than a year at the top of the New York Times list. She followed with two other smash bestsellers: Cherry and Lit, which were critical hits as well.

For thirty years Karr has also taught the form, winning graduate teaching prizes for her highly selective seminar at Syracuse, where she mentored such future hit authors as Cheryl Strayed, Keith Gessen, and Koren Zailckas. In The Art of Memoir, she synthesizes her expertise as professor and therapy patient, writer and spiritual seeker, recovered alcoholic and “black belt sinner,” providing a unique window into the mechanics and art of the form that is as irreverent, insightful, and entertaining as her own work in the genre.

Anchored by excerpts from her favorite memoirs and anecdotes from fellow writers’ experience, The Art of Memoir lays bare Karr’s own process. (Plus all those inside stories about how she dealt with family and friends get told— and the dark spaces in her own skull probed in depth.) As she breaks down the key elements of great literary memoir, she breaks open our concepts of memory and identity, and illuminates the cathartic power of reflecting on the past; anybody with an inner life or complicated history, whether writer or reader, will relate.

Joining such classics as Stephen King’s On Writing and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, The Art of Memoir is an elegant and accessible exploration of one of today’s most popular literary forms—a tour de force from an accomplished master pulling back the curtain on her craft.