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225 pages, Hardcover
First published September 15, 2015
I still feel awe for us ... for the great courage all of us show in trying to wring some truth from the godawful mess of a single life. To bring oneself to others makes the whole planet less lonely. The nobility of everybody trying boggles the mind. ... None of us can ever know the value of our lives, or how our separate and silent scribbling may add to the amenity of the world, if only by how radically it changes us, one and by one.
In a private workshop with Etheridge Knight--an ex-con from Mississippi and elsewhere, ashy of knee and with hands rusty enough to strike a match on--he scolded me about the pretentious pages I turned in. Way before poetry slams, he used to take us into bars or onto crowded buses to read out loud. Facing a listing drunk or a footsore commuter, you figure out pretty quick how irrelevant much of your drivel is.I love this quote not just because I love picturing writing students reading aloud on buses, but also because it sums up Mary Karr so well. Etheridge Knight must have succeeded in draining all the pretentiousness out of her, because for all her obvious, copious talent, she comes across as very real, honest, and unfussy in The Art of Memoir.