Saturday, August 14, 2010

Memoirs

When I read The Liar's Club, by Mary Karr, I remember thinking to myself, "This woman is a genius." That said, I can't believe it's taken me this long to get back around to reading more of her books. I've just finished two more of her memoirs - cherry and lit.

cherry, as you might suspect, details her first awakenings to love and sexuality, picking up somewhere around when The Liar's Club left off. Karr discusses her first love, some misadventures in dating and her decision to leave Texas as a young adult. What I really liked about this book was that Karr doesn't trivialize her first crushes, even with the perspective of time. She realizes that those early flutterings of romantic love aren't unreal just because they are new, or just because she was a teenager.

lit covers Karr's later life, particularly her experiences of motherhood. Indeed, this book is framed as a letter of sorts to her son, to whom she explains the journey of her alcoholism and recovery. Also playing a major role in this book (as in every Karr memoir I've read so far) is Karr's mother, whose presence is, by turns, cathartic and malignant.

Of the two, I preferred lit, perhaps because I myself am a mother now, and I understood Karr's desire to explain things to her son. To help him understand major events she was going through during her growing-up years and put his childhood memories into context.

But the real treasures in both books are Karr's voice and writing style. She clearly understands that all events she's recounting are filtered through herself and her own recollection, and she admits that this filter may be faulty and/or flawed. She is unflinchingly honest about her own failings, and there are times that her laser-like perception of human nature is almost uncomfortable.

I highly recommend both books. I have a feeling I'll be reading more of Karr's work in the future.

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