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Lit LP: A Memoir Paperback – Large Print, November 3, 2009

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Editorial Reviews 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

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 578 pages
  • Publisher: HarperLuxe; Lrg edition (November 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061885479
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061885471
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (252 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,174,423 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

159 of 172 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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79 of 86 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
Read more ›
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131 of 152 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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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By scott c on January 3, 2012
Format: Paperback
I'm a sucker for memoirs of self-destruction. Whether by booze, drugs, or mental illness, chronicles of despair and endurance of lives hardly worth surviving are more often compelling than not. This wasn't one of them.

As another reviewer mentioned, she wrote this for the money. It shows. The lack of connection with a difficult life comes through in every well crafted, stylistic, and hollow sentence. Virtually every line, and certainly every paragraph, was like watching a little girl put her hands over her ears and pirouette her way through chaos and carnage without any thought as to why. And, virtually every sentence was peppered with language and metaphors that did not infuse them with emotion but drained them of any. This pretentious writing at its best. Even her "letter" to her son felt detached, as if she wanted to convey some deep feelings and instead sounded like someone who dreamed of Anne Sexton, drowned in thesaurus and, as a result, never said anything.

I just finished Driving With Dead People and, while not about alcoholism, it's a powerful and gripping memoir that works from front to back. The strange thing is, I think Mary Karr is probably a better writer. The problem is, she knows it. A good memoir is a story that needs to be told. Lit is a story that didn't need to be told, it was for bills needed to be paid. Financial needs are powerful but they are insufficient motivation for quality writing.

Memoirs are often criticized for being too sentimental. Lit has the opposite problem. It feels like it was told, with forced color, by an indifferent witness to a difficult life. As anyone with a brain knows, it's way too easy to obscure yourself and your emotions through language, self-deprecation, and wit. I wish she'd written something else for the money and waited to write this one when she actually wanted to. It would have made a huge difference.
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