The Memoirist’s Dream

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Book: The Art of Memoir

Author: Mary Karr


“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.IMG_9197.JPG

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.” [taken from Amazon]

Why I Bought It:

Well, I’m a writer who is currently in the (slow, painfully slow) process of writing a memoir of my own. I won’t go into detail about that, at least not until I’m further along, and who knows how long that will take since I’m still in school.

I recently transferred universities. Fall 2018 I will be starting somewhere new, where I will be studying English and Creative Writing. I started taking writing courses at my previous university, and I had this great professor. She gave us the best textbooks and writing advice, and the workshops were so productive. It was great, she was great, the best professor I’ve had. I wrote a nonfiction essay and she said I needed to decide whether I want to make it into a ghost story or a memoir. I hate the thought of trying to fictionalize the topic I wrote about, so I decided on a memoir. I asked her for memoir references to get me started. Of course she responded with a list of memoirs, categorized, that I could check out. They were memoirs her students for her memoir writing class read, so she had a disclaimer saying she couldn’t actually recommend all of them, but most were worth the read. She then told me about this book by Mary Karr, which she uses as her textbook for the class. Highly recommended.

I haven’t had a chance to crack this one open yet, but I hope to soon. The sooner I can get started reading it, the sooner I can really get started on this memoir of my own.


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21-year-old college student, lover of books and proud owner of Dreaming in Paperbacks blog, bookstagram, and DPaperbacks Twitter. Looking for more book, college, and lifestyle blogs to follow!

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