10-26-2009 09:37 PM
Please help us welcome Mary Karr to Center Stage.
Mary Karr's latest memoir Lit will be available on November 3rd. From Harper Collins: In Lit, the long-awaited sequel to her New York Times bestselling memoirs The Liars’ Club and Cherry, Mary Karr chronicles her descent into the inferno of alcoholism and madness, and her astonishing resurrection. A recollection of her struggle to come to terms with her Christian faith after years as an agnostic that explores the relationship between spirituality and substance abuse and depression, Lit is also about getting drunk and getting sober; becoming a mother by letting go of a mother; and learning to write by learning to live.
Mary Karr’s first memoir, The Liars' Club , won prizes for best first nonfiction from PEN (The Martha Albrand Award) and the Texas Institute for Letters. It was a New York Times bestseller for more than a year. Her second memoir, Cherry , was also a New York Times bestseller. She won a Guggenheim fellowship for her poetry, as well as Pushcart Prizes for both poetry and essays. Other grants include the Whiting Award and the Bunting Fellowship from Radcliffe College. Her poetry appears frequently in The New Yorker. She is the Peck Professor of English Literature at Syracuse University.
10-27-2009 12:06 AM
I'm so excited about your new book. You said in your video on your facebook page that it took you 7 years to write! I'm wondering what sort of process that was. When did the actual shape of the book become apparent to you? Were there any particular authors (or poets) whose writing helped you complete this project?
10-27-2009 04:43 AM
Stephanie, where are the sed questions for me. Confused about how this works alittle. Mary Karr
We'll be posting your Q&A on Sunday night to lead into your week long "live" appearance. Thanks.
10-27-2009 12:04 PM
Prom queen,how you is shea?Rick CATO called yesterday said he saw you on T.V.Talking about David Accordo at burger chief when he pulled the tire tool on old man mcbee.I told rick about the standoff at his house when he pulled a knife on his dad.Then he one upped my story with the time he said to a cop,ill put a scare on your face time cant errase.i came back with the story of all three (me,joey,and dave)riding to technical school together smoking da kine and getting so high we just kept driving around till it was over.Thats the cool thing about your books everbody starts talkin about the old days.I LL see you in L.A. Im trying to get sanders and his girlfriend to meet us there.He got hit by a car so when you see him limping you know whats up.your friend always DOONIE
10-30-2009 07:20 PM
Thanks for asking about what a slog it was. Twice I threw out nearly 500 pages--finished pages that I'd revised time and time again. I just crawl from moment to moment in the first draft, then try to follow of discern some psychological thread that drives through--for me reconciling with my own gorgeous, flaky mom was the only way I could become a mom myself. The shape of the book was always about all the ways I became lit--language & poetry, liquor & drugs, and then spiritual practice. Hope you like it. MK
10-30-2009 07:24 PM
Doonie, homeboy--"Put a scar on your face time can't erase!" You are my most quotable pal from my whole life. Dying to see you in LA. We'll have to have some chow. Yo sistah, M to the K
10-31-2009 12:19 PM
Thanks, Stephanie. I've already gotten a note from my old friend Doonie--a surf pal from back home. Looking forward to the week, though I'll be on the road and it may be a while between logins depending on wireless service. Mary
11-01-2009 01:19 PM
MARY KARR TO B&N
1. Tell us about how your new novel fits in with OR stands out from your body of work/previous work.
In THE LIARS’ CLUB and CHERRY, I was (respectively) a kid and a drug-sodden adolescent. In LIT, I’m writing as a grown-up, it connects the dots between disease and healing. Otherwise, people assumed I just sashayed away from sexual abuse and a bullet-ridden household right down literary lane. As an adult, I have both agency and culpability. My mother was a shadow stitched to my feet. I couldn't outrun her, and when my own son was born, I found myself morphing into her. Like turning into a werewolf and waking up with a ruff of fur around your throat.
2. What's the most interesting thing a reader has ever asked you?
A reporter interviewing me in a hotel suit once while I folded my underwear asked me if he could have a pair, and I said for a hundred bucks sure.
3. What's the one thing no one has ever asked you that you are dying to make known?
Dying to make known? I would’ve made it known by now, wouldn’t I. People probably don’t know that I’m an extremely private person. Candid, yes, forthright, yes, but a little bit of a hermit.
4. Whose books would you like to have written if not your own?
Cormac McCarthy’s BLOOD MERIDIEN, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez’s HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE, the stories of Flannery O’Conner and the poems in Wallace Stevens’s HARMONIUM or Elizabeth Bishop’s GEOGRAPHY III, Babel’s RED CALVARY STORIES, Tolstoy’s ANNA KARENINA. OH, Shakespeare’s everything. Donne and Hopkins.
5. If you weren’t a writer, you’d be?
Extremely sad. Maybe a girl’s track coach or a yoga teacher.
11-01-2009 02:57 PM
Thanks for joining us. I was wondering, do you plan on a fourth book?
. Your consistent sense of humor about your life, in the face of all your difficulties, is remarkable. It made what I thought would be a very painful read, totally enjoyable.
I found it very impressive that you still respected and loved your parents although you had been through so much with them. You must have remarkable strength of character to be able to bounce back so many times. How lucky and gifted your life was, in spite of everything, because there were people who genuinely cared for you throughout.
11-01-2009 03:32 PM
One reason I wrote LIT is to explain to people how unremarkable my character was/is--what a sissy I am. In LIT, I connect the dots between pain and healing. It's about all the ways I got lit--poetry, Jack Daniels, and finally an unlikely spiritual practice for a lifelong agnostic.
11-01-2009 06:13 PM
Canon-Aspirin (great name), thanks for the question. I always assume I know what the book's about, but I never do. Fiv eyears ago, I thought this might be a romantic memoir about boyfriends--couldn't have been more wrong. I mainly throw stuff away--darft scenes, and unless the scene has some deeply emptional fascination for me and (presumably) for a reader, I cut it. I mean, there might be 10 remembered scenes about being too drunk to care for my kid, but needing a tumbler of whiskey on my nightstand to motivate me to get up for a sick toddler--that seemed a key one. It's not even the worst one by external yardsticks--or the most dramatic, but it's the scene that pricked at some core of shame in memory. Basically, I draft 500 pages, then throw out all but 80, then draft 500 pages, and throw out all but 120.....I tack Beckett's motto above my desk: Fail better.
11-01-2009 06:16 PM
This is where my spiritual practice rears its head--I don't "plan" much what I'm going to write. That comes to me through prayer and work. Right now, nothing interests me less, but I turned down a big boatload of cash for LIT in 2000, and I wound up writing a proposal for it two years later. Right now, I'm working on poems about Jesus in New York City. Blend Lorca with Whitman with Hopkins, and that's what I'm shooting for. I'm also working on a texbook about memoir, based on teaching it since 1986.
11-01-2009 07:51 PM
I hope you still got the boatload of cash for Lit - and I'd love to read the 500 or more pages you threw out. What strikes me though, is that you're able to be so honest, so forthcoming. I appreciate the dificulty in that. It must be freeing, but I'm not sure I'd ever be able to send the pages to the publisher. How do you let go?
11-01-2009 08:35 PM
The publisher usually pries pages from my hands, and I leave claw marks. As for being honest, do you mean because I'd be embarrassed? I'm descended from a pair of outlaws chose to be a poet--not exactly a career designed to impress the world. I worry like hell that family and friends find it accurate, psychologically true, morally fair. Its literary value worries me like crazy. I'd rather eat a bug than bore anybody nice enough to buy one of my books. My reputation has sucked since I was about eight, so nobody expects me to be much different than I am.
11-02-2009 04:49 AM
I'm so excited that you're here. I've read The Liar's Club (twice!) and I'm half way through Cherry now and then on to Lit. My question is why didn't you name the person who assaulted you in the Liar's Club? Have you ever publically named the person?
11-02-2009 11:17 AM
My job in these books is never to setlle scores. The instant a memoirist thinks that's her job, she's in the inferno. You have to question such motives and pay attention to the reader's needs--not your own. Also, like most people who get sexually assaulted, I took my power back--long before I wrote the book. After the book came out, I met a much younger girl from our neighborhood who'd been raped by the same boy from age five till sixteen. She came across the guy in her current workkplace--an environment dominated by women, by the way--and she told all the ladies in the vicinity he was the culprit. I often wonder about the weight of their stares on his back and his whispers in his head. But I'm not in the justice business. I'm in the art-making business.
11-02-2009 11:18 AM
I reread your smart comment and want to echo what you said about my luck. So many sunflowers turned their heads when I walked by to shine on my. I was snatched from the fire.
11-02-2009 01:02 PM - edited 11-02-2009 01:06 PM
He's lucky stares and whispers is all he's getting. Although I admire your stance on metting out justice.
I remember reading that Tobias Wolff pushed you to write memoir. Is that right? Can you speak a bit about his influence on you? Both your memoirs compliment one another.