Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Mary Karr Reading Frenzy

     Two memoirs. One poetry book. One writing book. Yes, it was a Mary Karr week.

     My Mary Karr reading frenzy all started quite innocently. I took a writing class last summer at Inprint in Houston. Our teacher told us Mary Karr was coming to Houston in September. I spontaneously decided to buy a ticket, vaguely remembering that I'd read her first memoir, Liar's Club, back twenty years ago or so. When the date of Karr's reading approached, I was exhausted by all the beginning-of-the-year stuff we teachers experience but I remembered a book was included in the price of the reading, and I didn't want to miss out on picking up that book. So I reluctantly decided to go. When I googled the address of the reading, I was surprised to see that it was being held in a church. Must not have been able to book the Wortham for that night, I thought. 

     I was wrong. It was no accident that Mary Karr was at Christ Church Cathedral, an Episcopal Church in downtown Houston, built in 1839; all her readings were being held in churches. 

     I was intrigued. An author in a church. Imagine that.

     Mary Karr was fascinating. "I was a strange child," she told her audience at the reading. "I was not a happy child. But there was something about reading memoirs that made me feel less lonely." Karr shared her new book, The Art of Memoir, and suggested that through our stories we manufacture a self. "Writing a memoir is like knocking yourself out with your own fist," she told us.

     All her books, Karr explained, could be summed up: "I am sad. The end." 

     In her life, Karr survived her alcoholic and dysfunctional parents to become an alcoholic and dysfunctional parent herself. And somehow she broke free of all that, mysteriously embracing both writing and the Catholic Church.

     Mary Karr is a little older, a little less functional Texas-rooted me. Like me, she has both the redneck-storytelling people and the salvation-through-reading people in her family tree. 

     That was enough. I raced home from the reading and put everything I could find of Mary Karr's on hold at the library. I was amazed to find that not only were all three of her memoirs at the library, but that I could also check out and read one of her books of poetry. 

     I'll just tell you that her books are mostly "I am sad." But, happily, there is a little more there before "The end." 

     Beautiful writing. Sad stories. And redemption. Mary Karr.

What are you reading today?!

What is the Sunday SalonImagine some university library's vast reading room. It's filled with people--students and faculty and strangers who've wandered in. They're seated at great oaken desks, books piled all around them,and they're all feverishly reading and jotting notes in their leather-bound journals as they go. Later they'll mill around the open dictionaries and compare their thoughts on the afternoon's literary intake....That's what happens at the Sunday Salon, except it's all virtual. Every Sunday the bloggers participating in that week's Salon get together--at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones--and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one another's blogs. Think of it as an informal, weekly, mini read-a-thon, an excuse to put aside one's earthly responsibilities and fall into a good book. Click here to join the Salon.

The Sunday Post is a meme hosted by Kimba at Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It's a chance to share news and recap the past week.

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share books that we found in our mailboxes last week. 
 It is now being hosted here.

Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews in which you can share the books you've acquired.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is where we share what we read this past week, what we hope to read this week…. and anything in between!  This is a great way to plan out your reading week and see what others are currently reading as well… you never know where that next “must read” book will come from! I love being a part of this and I hope you do too! As part of this weekly meme Book Journey loves to encourage you all to go and visit the others participating in this meme. 


  1. I didn't know all that about Mary Karr. I, of course, have heard of The Liars' Club and have wanted to read it for a while. Maybe, just maybe, now I will. Thanks for reminding me about her.

  2. Wonderful post. An author's reading in a church -- neat. I read The Liar's Club back in the '90s, and though I don't recall a lot of the specifics now, I remember it was earth-shaking for writing and the memoir, and it was shattering in bleak ways. Glad you went through the Karr frenzy. She seems to speak truth.

    1. Yes, apparently the church has scheduled several more author readings.

  3. Fascinating info about Mary Karr. I am intrigued by her....and although it's been a while since I read Lit, I now have The Liars' Club and Cherry is headed my way.

    I didn't grow up in Texas or the South...but so much of my family dynamics seem Southern (my grandparents were from Missouri), and there was that whole storytelling aspect. I will be addicted until I've read them all. Thanks for sharing...and for visiting my blog.

  4. What a fantastic experience! I remember reading The Liar's Club years and years ago, and remember it being quite different from anything else I was reading at the time.

    1. After rereading Liars' Club, I see what Karr meant by, "I am sad. The end."

  5. What a wonderful summary of your event and the books. I read Liars Club many years ago, years before I was blogging. I think she was right that it was about being sad, the end. Did she talk about her alcoholism and how she recovered (escaped?) Will look for her poetry book.

    My Sunday Salon

  6. Wow, that's an interesting story. She sounds like a very inspirational speaker, and I'm glad she's able to inspire others by sharing that she's sad, but there's more than that. Great post.

    Beautiful church by the way- love the hardwood floor.

  7. I've never heard of Mary Karr before - I love the stuff she shared. What a great experience to be there and hear her being so honest.


  8. I haven't read anything by Karr, but I think I have The Liars Club. I'm on a memoir kick and your post has me wanting to check her books out, so if I have it, I'll add it to my list to read.

  9. This sounds like a really good reading. I’ve been to a ton of readings, and most of them were kind of boring.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  10. I've heard so much about Mary Karr, but I never really felt the impulse to read her work. I think you convinced me. Where should I start??


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