The Art of Memoir (Paperback)
Harper Perennial, 9780062223074, 256pp.
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Credited with sparking the current memoir explosion, Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club spent more than a year at the top of the New York Times list. She followed with two other smash bestsellers: Cherry and Lit, which were critical hits as well.
For thirty years Karr has also taught the form, winning teaching prizes at Syracuse. (The writing program there produced such acclaimed authors as Cheryl Strayed, Keith Gessen, and Koren Zailckas.) In The Art of Memoir, she synthesizes her expertise as professor and therapy patient, writer and spiritual seeker, recovered alcoholic and “black belt sinner,” providing a unique window into the mechanics and art of the form that is as irreverent, insightful, and entertaining as her own work in the genre.
Anchored by excerpts from her favorite memoirs and anecdotes from fellow writers’ experience, The Art of Memoir lays bare Karr’s own process. (Plus all those inside stories about how she dealt with family and friends get told— and the dark spaces in her own skull probed in depth.) As she breaks down the key elements of great literary memoir, 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.
Joining such classics as Stephen King’s On Writing and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, The Art of Memoir is an elegant and accessible exploration of one of today’s most popular literary forms—a tour de force from an accomplished master pulling back the curtain on her craft.
Praise For The Art of Memoir…
“Could have been called ‘The Art of Living.’”
“Mary Karr has written another astonishingly perceptive, wildly entertaining, and profoundly honest book-funny, fascinating, necessary. The Art of Memoir will be the definitive book on reading and writing memoir for years to come.”
“Should be required reading for anyone attempting to write a memoir, but anyone who loves literature will enjoy it too.”
“Terrific and deliciously readable guide.”
“Full of Karr’s usual wit, compassion and, perhaps most reassuringly, self-doubt. Her fans should be delighted—and they can’t go wrong reading the books she discusses, including her own.”
“From a contemporary luminary of the form, Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir examines our enduring drive to make memory speak and to ‘wring some truth from this godawful mess of a single life.’”
“The Art of Memoir is passionate and irreverent-and reminds us why we love a good memoir.”
“Mary Karr strikes a vein in The Art of Memoir.”
“Karr is such fun to read-who else would combine the name Nabokov and the phrase “out the wazoo” on her very first page?”
“A veritable blueprint for the genre…. Lovers of the form and aspiring scribblers alike will relish this comprehensive appreciation of and guide to ‘writing the real self.’”
“With a trio of notable memoirs (”The Liars’ Club,” “Cherry,” and “Lit”), Mary Karr is exquisitely qualified to write this book, a kind of compendium of advice, warning, and deep insight into what makes a personal history stick in a reader’s mind.”
“Karr really is an artist. The Art of Memoir attests to how hard she works at getting her words just right and how deeply she understands the way great writing works.”
“As useful for those of us who want to be better friends and lovers as it is for those of us who want to pen our life story.”
“A master class on memoir, from a memoirist who pulls no punches.”
“Lots of practical advice, a great reading list, examples you can bite into.”
“Karr’s own voice is consistent and authentic, as vivid, down-home, smart, profane and self-deprecating as it is in her own memoirs.”
“A celebration of the creative life.”
“Enlightening….Fresh and heartfelt….Instructs and inspires through example and a love for the art of memoir.”
“Karr write[s] exquisitely…and without pretense, often with raw authenticity….a must-read.”
“Snappy and witty, humorous just when it needs to be, yet plainspoken in the best way.”
“Karr’s sassy Texas wit and her down-to-earth observations about both the memoir form and how to approach it combine to make for lively and inspiring reading. A generous and singularly insightful examination of memoir.”