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Lit : A Memoir (P.S.) [Kindle Edition]

Mary Karr
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (241 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Mary Karr’s 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 won’t 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.

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

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.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1322 KB
  • Print Length: 432 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books; 1 Reprint edition (October 14, 2009)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002SVQCW4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #123,545 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
152 of 165 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What Happened After "The Liar's Club" and "Cherry" 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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73 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Memoir I've Read Since "The Liar's Club" 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.
Read more ›
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125 of 145 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I can't *believe* I'm saying this... November 11, 2009
...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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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars All Style, No Substance January 3, 2012
By scott c
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
It started out obscure and messy, but the premise finally became clearer.
Published 9 days ago by Olivia Bush
3.0 out of 5 stars Eh........
I loved her first memoir, "The Liars Club." It was funny, interesting, sad and very honestly written. Read more
Published 16 days ago by meshybelle
5.0 out of 5 stars loved it
So well written that u can't put it down. Her description of her alcoholism is like a vivid painting you can't look away from.
Published 2 months ago by Tannya Lee
5.0 out of 5 stars I think that I am in love..
What a lively, expressive wit as seen on page after page. Karr is not to be missed as she works her way through her travails and comes out on the other side quite whole having... Read more
Published 3 months ago by bhopkins49
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent memoir
An excellent examination of mother-daughter relationships, the power of booze and what it takes to get, and stay, sober. Look forward to reading her other books.
Published 3 months ago by Ken
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
An amazing journey!
Published 3 months ago by Maria Elena Sandovici
2.0 out of 5 stars Regurgitated and Overrated
Nothing new under the sun. Wish I were the kind of person who could stop reading a book halfway through, because after the second third, I found Jesus, too, and started praying the... Read more
Published 4 months ago by norse
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent read for anyone who's ever been touched by addiction
Ms. Karr's experience with alcoholism, especially with regard to her search for a higher being that is necessary to working a 12-step program, struck a chord with me. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Lisa
5.0 out of 5 stars so I feel as if I know her personally and I was disappointed when I...
I can't get enough of Mary Karr. I read both memoirs back to back, so I feel as if I know her personally and I was disappointed when I finished each book. I wanted more. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Ruth Givens
3.0 out of 5 stars Mary's is a very good writer especially in liars club but this last in...
Mary's is a very good writer especially in liars club but this last in the series milks it a little/lot IMO
reminds me of an angela's ashes spinoff - something about mary... Read more
Published 5 months ago by B. Fletcher
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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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