Monday, October 26, 2009

Mary Karr, Memoirist and Poet Extraordinnaire

I own every book that Mary Karr has written and was very fortunate and excited to get an advance reading copy of "Lit", her newest memoir, to review for Amazon. The book is fabulous, just amazing. I just LOVE reading memoirs and this one was particularly compelling for me because she's also a poet. It comes out on November 3, 2009 and below is my review from Her three memoirs in order are: "The Liar's Club", "Cherry", then "Lit". I highly recommend them all, along with her poetry. Love & Blessings ~Marion

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. By all accounts, Mary Karr should not have survived her hardscrabble life, but thank God she did because we are all richer for her life and her stories.

I also highly recommend her books of poetry, "Viper Rum (Poets, Penguin)", Sinners Welcome: Poems", "Abacus", and "The Devil's Tour". Thank you, Ms. Karr, from the bottom of my bookaholic, poet-heart, for having the guts to share your incredible, extraordinary journey with us.

by Mary Karr

Before my first communion, I clung to doubt
as Satan spider-like stalked
the orb of dark surrounding Eden

for a wormhole into paradise.
God had formed me from gel in my mother’s womb,
injected by my dad’s smart shoot.

They swapped sighs until
I came, smaller than a bite of burger.
Quietly, I grew till my lungs were done

then the Lord sailed a soul
like a lit arrow to inhabit me.
Maybe that piercing

made me howl at birth,
or the masked creatures whose scalpel
cut a lightning bolt to free me.

I was hoisted by the heels and swatted, fed
and hauled around. Time-lapse photos show
my fingers grow past crayon outlines,

my feet come to fill spike heels.
Eventually, I lurched out
to kiss the wrong mouths, get stewed,

and sulk around. Christ always stood
to one side with a glass of water.
I swatted the sap away.

When my thirst got great enough to ask,
a clear stream welled up inside,
some jade wave buoyed me forward,

and I found myself upright
in the instant, with a garden
inside my own ribs aflourish.

There, the arbor leafs.
The vines push out plump grapes.
You are loved, someone said. Take that
and eat it.

~From: "Sinner's Welcome", page 6


Rikkij said...

I'm not familiar with her, but I enjoyed the piece you chose. ~rick

Karen said...

Marion, this is wonderful! You always seem to find the right poem for the right time. I think you have some psychic wavelength that tells you, "This is what these gals need right now."

By the way, so sorry to read about your knees. I hope the rain and cold don't make them worse. Is this the curse of little girl play? I think we Boomers are reaping what we sowed back then. (I've been on ice since last weekend, when I chased my three year old granddaughter up the stairs - a great game, until Grammy fell!) We really are too much alike!! LOL

Blessings to you!

Marion said...

Rick!!! I'm so glad to see you back in cyberspace. Welcome back, friend. I'm happy you enjoyed the poem. Blessings, my poet-friend!

Karen, thank you. I could write pages just from the quotes I underlined from her new book, "Lit". It's really great, as are her poems. No, my knees are gimped up from my back injury. The surgeon messed me up and my right foot and parts of my right leg are totally numb, therefore I limp. Limping is murder on the knees over time when you favor one foot. It's from a workman's comp case and while the lawyers fight, I basically get no health care at all, just inadequate pain medication when they feel like calling it in. It's been a depressing, uphill, excrutiatingly painful battle both physically and emotionally. The cold, wet weather makes me feel 100 years old!! I just thank God my health is pretty good otherwise because I haven't had health insurance for over 2 years. Are you sorry you asked? LOL! God is good and I'm just thankful we own our home, vehicles and 'stuff' or we'd be up a creek without a paddle financially. I'm really blessed overall. Yes, you and I seem to be in a parallel universe! Ha! Blessings, dear friend!

Phoenix said...

"You are loved, someone said. Take that
and eat it."

So incredibly beautiful. The entire poem is amazing, I had no idea she wrote poetry as well (haven't read her books but have heard of them.)

Another awesome post! Thanks for sharing, Marion!

Judith Ellis said...

Thanks for the introduction to this poet and author. I had not heard of her. The poem is beautiful, full of meaning. Love to you, wonderful one.

Margaret Pangert said...

Hi Marion! Can't wait until the new book comes out! And I'll get the memoir, too: I agree with you that it's so fascinating to see others revealed in a way you couldn't normally discover. The poem was so witty! Every line! Thanks for all the input today. LOVE xxox

Marion said...

Phoenix, glad you enjoyed the poem. Her writing reminds me a little of Anne Sexton because she writes much from her life. Her books are great, you'll enjoy reading them. Blessings!

You're welcome, Judith. My favorite part of her new book was her journey to faith. It was so beautifully written. Love & Blessings!

Margaret, you'll really like this book. It's her best yet. Thanks for stopping by!! Love & Blessings!

RNSANE said...

I had never heard of Mary Karr but you described her and her works so beautifully, I will certainly have to become better acquainted with her. Thanks for this wonderful review!

Serena said...

Sounds like some wonderful reading!

Char said...

Thanks for sharing the poem, Marion. Beautiful! I will be looking for her books.

Wine and Words said...

Ah, so lovely. Poem speaks straight to the God hole, fills it completely for a moment. Spirit filling.

I didn't know you could have more than one memoir!

Karen said...

So, so sorry about the physical conditions. I'm looking over at the lady on my left, Mary, and thinking that's from where the help may come...

Sad for you but praying.

SarahA said...

I have heard about 'The Liar's Club' and I am thinking, I would like to read more of this Mary Kerr who writes so freely. You open windows inside of me Marion.

BTW it is not a good idea, you know; me getting into your mind. Kick me out next time, hey? But thank you (heartfelt).

Marion said...

Yes, if any of you haven't read Ms. Karr, you'll really enjoy her books. "The Liar's Club" is awesome and I'm re-reading it today. Her books show how a person with a horribly shitty childhood can overcome HUGE obstacles to achieve their goals. And her wit and humor are wild.

Thank you Karen. I talk to Her often! Blessings!

Saraha, my friend, you will love her books. They're fascinating reading: funny, sad, bittersweet and heartbreaking---the stuff of life. Hey, inside your head cannot be worse than inside mine right now. LOL! I do love you and appreciate you. Kick you out??? NEVER!! Blessings, Peace & Love...