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Lit: A Memoir Hardcover – November 3, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (November 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060596988
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060596989
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 6.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (231 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #471,814 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Product Description

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.




Photos from Mary Karr
(Click to Enlarge)

Mary's much adored oil-worker Daddy Mary's artist mother, Charlie Karr Mary, at 22, meeting poet Howard Nemerov Mary one month before visiting the "Mental Marriott"

Mary, age 17, with sister Lecia, age 19 Mary and young son Dev Mary with family before her Leitchfield Liars' Club reading Mary celebrating the holidays with son Dev Mary's son, Dev Milburn, in 2009

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Karr performs her brave memoir about alcoholism, getting sober, and getting God in a confident Texas drawl. Readers familiar with The Liar's Club, Karr's account of her childhood will find parallels--her descent into alcoholism differs from her mother's addiction only in the details. Karr revisits her past with rare candor and humor, recounting her role in the disintegration of her marriage to Warren Whitbread, the reserved scion of a fabulously wealthy family (whose other members are deliciously skewered here), and her most shameful moments (leaving her feverish toddler to take a long swig from the bottle of Jack Daniels stashed in the oven). When Karr undergoes a hard-won spiritual awakening through the combined efforts of AA; her spiritual director, Joan the Bone; and a stay in the Mental Marriott, listeners will be cheering. A Harper hardcover.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Mary Karr's first memoir, The Liar's Club, kick-started a memoir revolution and won nonfiction prizes from PEN and the Texas Institute of Letters. Also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, it rode high on the New York Times bestseller list for over a year, becoming an annual "best book" there and for The New Yorker, People, and Time. Recently Entertainment Weekly rated it number four in the top one hundred books of the past twenty-five years. Her second memoir, Cherry, which was excerpted in The New Yorker, also hit bestseller and "notable book" lists at the New York Times and dozens of other papers nationwide. Her most recent book in this autobiographical series, Lit: A Memoir, is the story of her alcoholism, recovery, and conversion to Catholicism. A Guggenheim Fellow in poetry, Karr has won Pushcart Prizes for both verse and essays. Other grants include the Whiting Award and Radcliffe's Bunting Fellowship. She is the Peck Professor of Literature at Syracuse University.


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Customer Reviews

Mary Karr style of writing is unique and very honest.
Suzy Wichterle Ort
Job 42:6 Lit is the third in a series of sequential memoirs by poetess Mary Karr who also wrote the much acclaimed books, The Liar's Club and Cherry.
Donald Mitchell
Very well written an excellent book, difficult at times but worth the read.
Ruth Kirk Follette

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

150 of 162 people found the following review helpful By C. Hutton on October 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Mary Karr is an awesome writer and "Lit" just became one of my top 50 books of all time. The first 100+ pages are harrowing as Ms. Karr describes her long self-destructive slide into alcoholism (just like her parents). These pages are hard to take, just like watching a car wreck in slow motion. However her brutal honesty and her gallows humor about her road to redemption and sobriety save this memoir from being another AA recovery tale. She writes of her self-centered, off-center mother and a childhood from hell with the ring of truth. The heart of the memoir is family : grieving for her father (who, she perceived to win "the better parent prize" because he didn't stand over her with a butcher knife), figuring out her relationship with her now sober but still off the wall mother, and exploring the past with her big sister. This book is not for everyone because Ms. Karr's early life was messy and uncomfortable. But she writes like she is having a conversation with the reader and she is a master story-teller.
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72 of 78 people found the following review helpful By Marion VINE VOICE on October 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have to admit that Ms. Karr's "The Liars' Club: A Memoir" is one of my favorite books of all time. Memoirs are one of my favorite genres and being able to see behind the scenes in the life of a poet/writer is intriguing. I enjoyed reading "Cherry" and was thrilled when I saw that Ms. Karr had "Lit" coming out, taking up where "Cherry" left off. What I enjoyed most about this book was her lyrical, moving language and her fierce honesty. This couldn't have been an easy book to write because she holds nothing back and is brutally candid about her alcoholism and how it almost destroyed her, but more importantly, how she overcame her inner demons to find sobriety and success. She has several stories about her experiences in AA that had me either rolling with laughter or crying. The story about the woman, the frozen turkey and the vodka was side-splitting funny. I won't share the details because you need to buy the book and read it for yourself. It's overflowing with wit, humor, love, angst and wisdom.

Each chapter begins with a quote, most from poems, (and a few from some literary masterpieces) and I've discovered some amazing new poets from them. I've highlighted and dog-eared pages to refer back to in nearly every chapter. I like that she included a 'Contents' page and titled each of the 45 short chapters. The book is divided into four major sections:

I. Escape From The Tropic of Squalor
II. Flashdance
III. Self Help
IV. Being Who You Are Is Not A Disorder

Ultimately, this is a dazzling tale of redemption, liberation, grace and survival.
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123 of 143 people found the following review helpful By porkchop on November 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover
...but I didn't love this book. I am a big fan of her other books. I've read Liar's Club so many times it's all soft and worn down at the corners. In fact, if anyone else had written Lit, I would probably give it 4 stars because it's beautifully written and full of fantastic insights, both large and small.

Lit blends a recovery story with a religious conversion experience, against the background of the rest of her life (family, writing, academics). I wasn't right there with her all the time. The story was so permeated with alcoholism that everything else got cut off at the knees. I wanted more slices of life to let me know what she was missing, more humor to frame the sadness, more high times, more *characters*. Her husband Warren wasn't half the person he should have been. She didn't write about him with her usual fearlessness--I don't know why. If she was protecting him as a person, she cheated him as a character.

The connection between recovery and faith was a little forced. She's on such firm ground with vice and self-indulgence...I don't think she was able to downshift far enough to churn through her own naivete about grace. The work of explaining it showed, and for the last 100 pages she didn't seem to have her usual grip on what she was saying. The fact of that was touching in its own way, but there wasn't enough substance to her conversion.

There was plenty of honesty here (not surprising) but not enough truth.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Deirdre Seim on April 16, 2011
Format: Paperback
Mary Karr has a charming, light style of writing and a good grasp of the dramatic. Unfortunately, she never seems to gain any real insight into her issues in this memoir-- I found her descriptions of her substance abuse to be pretty superficial and her conversion to Catholicism even more so. Clearly, she is desperate for the certainty that the faith provides, but she never seems to see this about herself. Instead, she presents herself as converted by repeated proofs of prayer-That is she asks and god delivers- in the form of cars, cash and success. Her need to uncritically reduce faith to some sort of pray order delivery service- both demeans Catholicism and makes her come off as infantile.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By One of Many Reviewers on December 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I don't get it. This happens to me often with movies but rarely with books. Something gets amazing reviews. I read/see it. And then I sit there scratching my head saying to myself "what is everyone else thinking?" and flip back to the reviews to actually try to figure it out.

My issues with Lit were this:

1. The sentences seemed overly crafted and forced. It lacked a naturalness. I had to work to get in the flow. And there were many sentences I read that seemed to be all about the language at the sacrifice of the content, if that makes any sense.

2. The pacing made very little sense to me. She seems to like colorful characters and scenes with dialogue. This type of thing works well in memoirs like Tobias Wolff's (one of her mentors) This Boy's Life: A Memoir and perhaps in her other memoirs but in a conversion memoir it is much more about the internal than the external. Therefore, there were things like only two paragraphs on her fall from new sobriety to a suicide attempt and a whole relationship and failed engagement but then a whole chapter where she was in the psychiatric hospital. These major events would be glossed over; the colorful events would be fleshed out.

3. The two conversions, that of drunkenness to sobriety, and that of non-believer to believer, were dealt with superficially at best. It is a monumental task to try to put into language any dealings with the spiritual and I commend anyone who tries. I am afraid she does not succeed.

4. There are events in the book that seem to be for the benefit of readers of her other memoirs (I am not one of these people). I didn't get their inclusion. They seemed unnecessary and out of place.
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