Monday, May 30, 2011

Lit by Mary Karr

Mary Karr is far and away my favorite memoirist. Her writing is sublime, poetic, lyrical and fiercely honest. I first got to know her through The Liars Club about her gritty childhood in a small Texas town in the 1950s, and then again in Cherry about her pot-headed teen years during the late '60s.

In Lit, she is trying to make her way into adulthood but unable to get her bearings without the help of alcohol or drugs. She marries into a wealthy East Coast family in the hopes of shaking her 'shameful' past but ends up falling deeper and deeper into her addiction and depression until she finally checks into the "Mental Marriot." Her recovery is often painful to witness, but recover she does.

Such a small, pure object a poem could be, made of nothing but air, a tiny string of letters, maybe small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. But it could blow everybody's head off. pg59

My longed-for circle of family is choking me. The silk bow ties on my cheap business blouses - that middle-class disguise I'd wished for - are choking me. The good family name for my son is a strangle, since it forces me to drive with a restless kid hours in murderous traffic to dine with polite people who never, not in decades, stop being strangers . pg165

I sit mouldering at midnight on the back porch, holding what's become a tumbler of whiskey sans ice and floating cherry. The doctor has agreed to squeeze me in for an emergency appointment at dawn. Our couples session has become me alone in parenting 101. pg186 

Not long after, on a warm afternoon while Dev's in the tub, Warren and I step across the hall to the bedroom to jack up our sniping. You always this, and you never that. We unzip our mild parental personas, shedding them, rising up like four-legged beasts reared back. The room is swirling with out invectives when - in the doorway - there stands Dev in his three-year-old body. He's naked and gap-mouthed. All the raging that swirls around us arrests into violent stasis. The fury in the room dispels itself like smoke siphoned up with a hose. pg187 
Three weeks after the lamest stab in suicide's history, I sit typing in the sunlit hall of that asylum so famous one Ivy-League poet later suggested I include it on my resume. In my blue-striped robe and vomit-green happy slippers, I'm finishing a poem about a particular circle of hell in which a sinner is fixed on endless video reruns of her every screw-up. An eternity of reruns with eyelids held open by clothespins. Crucifixion by television. 
Which is how the end of my drinking felt - the anesthesia of liquor had stopped working, and there was nothing much else to aspire to. pg287
Every now and then we enter the presence of the numinous and deduce for an instant how we're formed, in what detail the force that infuses every petal might specifically run through us, wishing only to lure us into our full potential. Usually, the closer we get is when we love, or when some beloved beams back, which can galvanize you like steel and make resilient what had heretofore only been soft flesh. (Dev, you gave me that.) pg386


Tiny Library said...

I've never heard of her but I like her writing style. I'll be looking up one of her books :)

Lee said...

I'll try to get my review up tomorrow. I loved this book too.

Trish said...

tiny library - she is an artist with words. Truly.

lee - great! I'll add a link when you get it posted.

Nomad said...

Ooooohh... I NEEEEED to read this!

Trish said...

Nomad, you can have my copy when you're in town. That and a few others I have set aside for you ;)

Nomad said...

oooh yummy....nothing better than friend loved books!

Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic said...

I've never heard of her or this book. Thanks for the introduction :)

Trish said...

She's really quite something. I hadn't heard of her until recently either.