Lit
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Lit

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  12,828 ratings  ·  1,566 reviews
The Liars' Club brought to vivid, indelible life Mary Karr's hardscrabble Texas childhood. Cherry, her account of her adolescence, "continued to set the literary standard for making the personal universal" (Entertainment Weekly). Now Lit follows the self-professed blackbelt sinner's descent into the inferno of alcoholism and madness—and to her astonishing resurrection.

Karr...more
Hardcover, 386 pages
Published November 3rd 2009 by Harper (first published November 3rd 2008)
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Substance Abuse & Addiction
50th out of 440 books — 1,053 voters
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Best Memoir / Biography / Autobiography
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Mike
On its funniest and its most harrowing pages, Mary Karr's Lit reminds me of Augusten Burroughs's Dry; both sarcastic, heartbroken protagonists are helplessly addicted to alcohol, romantically incapacitated, and surrounded by saccharine morons. In moron-land, Karr escapes mental institution bureaucracy in time to attend a literary reception in her honor by using guile. The institute's Nurse Ratchett "has a tendency to bring up penis envy every session, and I swear that this time, when she does, I...more
Will Byrnes
Like Ron Rash and Thomas Hardy, Mary Karr writes dense, image-rich language with a poet’s flair. This is not stuff you speed-read past. Slow down, take a sip from whatever you’re drinking. Maybe read that paragraph again. Make sure there are no visions left behind. The language is a major part of the great value here. The other is the content of the story.

Lit refers not only to Karr’s affection for the written word, but to her level of sobriety. Her memoir shows us a life lived under the burden...more
Julie Davis
Reading this for my book club.

O.M.G.

If there is a genre I hate, it is that of addicts telling their life stories ... yes, even when they come out Christian at the other end. Just like a bad movie made for Christian purposes, an angsty book told for Christian purposes does nothing for me. First give me good art (story) I say, then worry about what else is in it.

It isn't that I don't have sympathy for the people themselves, it is that their books inevitably seem to be all about them (me, me, me .....more
Jen Knox
Karr's hard-edged poetic voice made The Liars' Club one of my favorite books. In Lit, the voice is just as searing and lovely but perhaps not as consistent. The childhood digressions--nods to her previous works--were the weakest portions of the narrative, but they were brief; moreover, they were easily forgiven when bookmarking transcendent scenes such as one in which a group of illiterate women remind the author of the universality of good poetry. I highly recommend this book to all readers, bu...more
Ruth
Okay - I know this author has won awards and I am supposed to have thought this book was wonderful, but I didn't. I swear I could hear her thumbing through the thesaurus to find words we do not use in normal conversation. Keep in mind she is a poet by trade, not a nonfiction writer, so the disjointed nature of her autobiography is to be somewhat expected. Yes, she did have a hard life as a child and her alcohol abuse made her less than a great mom but I had a hard time not telling to her to grow...more
Brad
This was a tough book for me, in a lot of ways.

1.) As a person in recovery, I find most 'drunkalogues--> I went to AA--> I found God' narratives very tiring. There's parts of my own story (and every addict's) there, but Karr just doesn't have the chops of a David Foster Wallace or even an Augusten Burroughs.

2) As someone who went through a Creative Writing program in college, and dated more than a couple poetesses, this was like a nightmarish rewind of my poor dating choices. Oh yes, I mos...more
Sara
The experience of reading this book is one of being swept so effectively into someone else's experience that I have to give it a five. Pick it up, lie down on the couch, and if you've ever been an aspiring writer, a member of a psychotic family, a lover of poetry or even just an avid reader, you'll be as absorbed as ever you were in Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, Jane Eyre. East Texas girl overcomes horrific childhood but has to kick her alcoholism to become best-selling memoirist is just a...more
mark
Mar 26, 2014 mark rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: can't - a for profit write
Who is Mary Karr? A memoirist—this is her third. She is now 57 years old. She is a professor of literature at Syracuse University. She is a published poet. She is a single mother. She is famous—given credit for the huge increase in the popularity of the memoir as reader fodder and consequently rich, presumably a 1%er. She is a “free-willing” Catholic and a practicing alcoholic in recovery. In other words – Believes strongly in the power of God & prayers, and sober and attends AA meetings. Sh...more
Christin
Few writers can live up to the verve of a triple pun title: lit as in literature, lit as in intoxicated, and lit as in spiritual enlightenment, all three of which are seamlessly blended together in Karr’s characteristically wildly exuberant, utterly compelling, and shrewdly observant prose. She has a wonderful love of the epigram, which I admire greatly being a lover of epigrams myself. My favorite thusfar: “They are passing, posthaste, posthaste, the gliding years--to use a soul-rending Horatia...more
Cherylann
I read a lot of memoirs. There's something about peering into someone else's life that gives me a chance to pause and reflect on mine. Lit was no exception. It appears to be brutually honest, although it may not be since it's based on the recollections of an alcoholic. However, Karr does not paint herself to be a saint for having gotten herself into recovery or blame her past for her descent into alcoholism and depression. There were times as I read that I didn't want to read anymore. I wanted t...more
Jean
This felt hastily written and not well edited. Maybe the author just ran out of good material. In large part, it’s a recollection of alcoholism and/or depression and recovery that isn’t that different or more inspiring than many other so-so examples of this genre.

The author describes many of her fellow mentally troubled fellow patients in Maclean hospital, or in her AA group, but reducing each person to a few paragraphs and without developing much connection to her story makes it seem like the...more
Ciara
i'm not sure what to say about this book. i LOVED the liar's club & was so excited to read cherry, the second in her memoir trilogy. & even though that book is about coming of age adolescent girlhood, the kind of thing i love to read, i found it depressing (even more than ! or in a less appealing way or something), & the writing was too "poetic" for my tastes. therefore, i procrastinated for ages before cracking this book, the third of the memoir trilogy, open. i knew it was about ma...more
Kaya
Suspect the world does not need another review of Mary Karr’s newest memoir, but I do have some scattered thoughts on it. I feel, however, that they must be prefaced by multiple caveats, which may be the scattered thoughts in disguise. Caveat one: I’ve not read any of her other books. Have seen occasional poems of hers in magazines. Caveat two: She studied with a poet I also studied with, who makes a couple of appearances in this book as she begins to ascend into the poetry firmament. Caveat thr...more
Shelley
This was my first exposure to poet Mary Karr; I loved her writing. Like my two favorite memoirists, Alexandra Fuller and Peter Godwin, Karr blends pathos and humor in captivating ways. The result is a profoundly moving story about alienation, redemption and healing. Before she wrote her first memoir, a fellow author friend admonished her with these words: "Don't approach your history as something to be shaken for its cautionary fruit...Tell your stories, and your story will be revealed...Don't b...more
Rick
Shitfaced. As I read the early pages of Lit, I thought Shitfaced would make a better title. With characteristic candor, it’s the word Karr uses more often to describe her drunken state. But I was wrong. For some part of this, her third memoir, Shitfaced would have worked quite handily but eventually you come to realize this is more than a memoir about the journey from addiction to recovery and it becomes a story about faith and love. The deeper journey calls for the warmth and reach of lit, with...more
Newengland
A writer's writer, Mary Karr's work will appeal to poets, fans of the literary scene, self-help first-person horror story aficionados, and lovers of words. Never was the map to hell so gloriously recounted as this one. And the way she nails the logic and rationalization of alcoholics is spot on. If you've ever talked your way into "just one more" and lived to regret it, you'll find some mirrors among these well written pages. What follows are some excerpts from the book:

Karr writes of her first...more
Becky Cummings
Karr follows up her adolescent memoirs Liar's Club and Cherry with her memoir of alcholism and recovery. Karr writes with such self-deprecating wit and Southern charm that it's hard to believe we aren't good, long friends. There's plenty to admire here, but I was often irritated by her fairly superficial religious views. Her conversion feels real and necessary and very much part of the reason why she's not currently in an alcoholic coma or dead. Still, her version of faith is a wee bit too close...more
Sylvia
Lit is the first book I've read by Mary Karr and apparently should have begun with The Liar's Club. Apparently i'll be working backwards on her life story. I suppose that's what any of us who attempt to chronicle and make sense of our experiences do...we work backwards.

In some ways Karr works backwards and forwards and leaves large gaps. But still, I like memoir and honesty and found Karr to be raw honest and funny. It had glowing reviews while others fault her for be self-absorbed in this late...more
Tattered Cover Book Store
Jackie says:
I love the double entendre that is this book's title, Lit. This third memoir from Karr (the first: Liars Club, the second: Cherry) picks up with Mary finally escaping Texas--but not the family alcoholism. With her characteristic unflinchingly honest prose that's nevertheless penned with a poetic beauty, she tells us about her education, the beginnings of her teaching career, her marriage, and becoming a mother, all under the influence of alcohol. She also takes us through what it too...more
Nan
A big messy book with a lot of good things and a lot of annoying things. Karr overwrites with a vengeance, throwing 2 metaphors into one sentence when none would have been a lot better. There's a this-is-me-warts-and-all-stream-of-consciousness thing that she does that is apparently engaging for a lot of readers, but I tended to find her on the narcissistic side. Somewhere in this 400 page monster is a great 200 page memoir dying to shed some poundage.

What I did like about the book was her hones...more
Ruth
I just finished this one. Thumbs down. I thought it started out well. I enjoy Mary Karr's tough wise-cracking yet sensitive voice. But she loses that voice somewhere in the middle of the book. Maybe it only works when she's telling about disturbing things in her life. Maybe finding god and losing alcoholism may have been good for her real life. But I don't think it was good for her writing style. That plucky tough little gal departs somewhere in the middle of the book and is replaced by a sunshi...more
Ellen
I'm just going through the motions today. This book resonated on far too many levels. ...I'm not touching that right now.

This is a searing memoir that would have earned five stars except for the way Karr tiptoes a bit too much around her portrait of her husband and his leaden family. Memoirs with still-living relatives are a tap dance, as Annie Dillard demonstrates when her teen years lapse into caricature in An American Childhood. While Karr is at her least effective describing Warren, who come...more
Patrick O'Neil
Lit: A Memoir, Mary Karr's journey through alcohol, and alcoholism, takes the reader into her life; marriage, drinking, childbirth, drinking, teaching, drinking, writing, drinking, family, drinking, failed marriage, drinking, getting sober, drinking, really getting sober, not drinking, finding god, mother's death, and finally more god – was well written, entertaining, informative, and as always with Karr's writing – self centered and self depreciating – which I'm not complaining about, as she pu...more
Christie Bane
I have read Mary Karr's previous two books -- Cherry and The Liars' Club -- a long time ago and remembered liking them but didn't remember why. Lit actually started out a little slow, in my opinion, but got good quick. What I liked about it:

*Her struggle to find a higher power in the process of getting sober. She was SO opposed to the idea of God at all that it is hard to believe she came full circle and is now able to believe in God completely. (How did she DO that? I'm where she started, and I...more
Michelle
I've been on quite the memoir kick this year and this was one of the best, if not the best I've read (top 3 at least!) EVER. It's actually the author's third memoir, though I have not read the first two. (I will for sure). The premise is relatively simple; woman with an effed up childhood battles alcoholism and wins. But it's the writing and the angle that takes it up a notch. First of all, no surprise this writer is a published poet. The way she puts things together is nothing short of breathta...more
Oceana9
I always think it's strange when reviewers say they read a book again immediately after finishing it. I mean, isn't that kind of like keeping eating when you're already full? I'll read a book again a year or more later, when I've forgotten the good parts, but even then there's a sense of loss, like "I know how it ends."

That being said, for the first time in my life, I finished the last page of this book and immediately turned to the first page and started reading it again. Karr is a poet, and he...more
christa
Mary Karr's third memoir "Lit" is her own personal VH1 Behind the Music-style story, picking up the tale around where "Cherry" ended and stumbling into the place where "The Liars Club" became something Karr could sign in bookstores for fans in a line that winds around the block.

First she has to shake the drink.

Early scenes find Karr perched on a back porch, a drink in one hand, a baby monitor in the other, simmering in a boozy stew of self-loathing. She didn't want to drink this much, or maybe...more
Malbadeen
Karr had plenty of ammunition to turn this book into a whinny mid-life crisis, I-deserve-to-be-heard-damn-it, exhibition but she quickly puts the mirror to her own face before we have to ask her to.

In one particular passage she is grousing over the fact that, due to her financial status, her son has to wear hand me downs. Knowing that her in-laws are helping pay her rent, I was about to do get irritated with her, when the next paragraph read, "The at Lecia sends her son's outgrown slick leather...more
Susan Gloss
A good redemption story is hard to resist. It's probably why the Bible is so popular. It's also why Mary Karr, in Lit, is able to hook the reader from the very first sentence, even though it is her third memoir. Well, that and her gifted writing. Lit is a redemption story not only in the sense that it chronicles Karr's descent into and climb out of alcoholism--it is also a story about family, forgiveness, and making peace between intellect and faith.

Lit starts out fast. The reader journeys with...more
Alexis
Warning, craft review! Karr employs or deploys a number of craft strategies and techniques that I examined in order to rip-off for my own writing. I whittled down the many to these few:
• Prologues as context, anchoring (and/ or launching?) points
for both writer and reader, and how the prologues determine
the economy of explanation throughout the book;
• Management of present- and past-self narrators, for story, for
suspense, and other effects;
• Cognitive entry points (the deft turns-of-phrase...more
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Mary Karr's recollection of her life 3 30 Jan 18, 2014 02:32PM  
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Mary Karr is an American poet, essayist and memoirist. She rose to fame in 1995 with the publication of her bestselling memoir The Liars' Club. She is the Peck Professor of English Literature at Syracuse University.
The Liars' Club, published in 1995, was a New York Times bestseller for over a year, and was named one of the year's best books. It delves vividly and often humorously into her deeply t...more
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“What hurts so bad about youth isn't the actual butt whippings the world delivers. It's the stupid hopes playacting like certainties.” 72 likes
“Ten years, she's dead, and I still find myself some mornings reaching for the phone to call her. She could no more be gone than gravity or the moon.” 63 likes
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