Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club was a sensational memoir. She followed it up with Cherry and Lit. Now she’s using her skills as a writer and years as a professor and combining the two for The Art of Memoir. It is not a step by step how-to book, but rather a general discussion of the elements needed to put a personal story down on paper. From the cover blurb – she breaks open our concepts of memory and identity, and illuminates the cathartic power of reflecting on the past: anybody with an inner life or complicated history, whether writer or reader, will relate.
She uses other writers as examples and also delves into her own process. She admits to fear. She describes the concern of baring her soul, facing demons, and dealing with her own family and their perspective on their roles in her life. Mary Karr says, “ In some ways, writing a memoir is knocking yourself out with your own fist, if it’s done right.”
Everyone has a story, but how do you make yours interesting to others? She discusses all the senses and how to throw your reader into the life you are depicting. She says, “ Everyone has a past, and every past spawns fierce and fiery emotions about what it means.” If you are writing a memoir, you are taking a side and trying to be fair in the exposition of the tale. Will the reader stay on your side? Or will they drift and wonder what you are hiding? It’s a dance of sorts, and words are the musical pacing.
I enjoyed The Art of Memoir and marked off many pages for the wisdom, wit, and advice Ms. Karr shares. She’s been a favorite writer of mine and does not disappoint. P. 215 Writing, regardless of the end result – whether good or bad, published or not, well reviewed or slammed – means celebrating beauty in an often ugly world. And you do that by fighting for elegance and beauty, redoing or cutting the flabby, disordered parts. Whether you are a writer or a reader, The Art of Memoir will strike a chord in your heart and have you digging into your own life story.