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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.


Book 52/100: Lit by Mary Karr

Lit: A Memoir - Mary Karr

I read this because Cheryl Strayed recommended Mary Karr on her Dear Sugar podcast -- and when I read all the descriptions of Karr's book, this one appealed to me most because it deals with Catholic spirituality.

The Catholic spirituality part is interesting, although it is not as much of the book as I expected it to be -- comes very near the end. The rest is a memoir of Mary's journey to sobriety. And although memoirs should be able to stand alone, I kept feeling as if I was missing something but not having read her earlier, best-selling memoir(s). I couldn't really find the source of her angst, even though clearly she had had a difficult childhood, which seems to have included sexual assault and alcoholism. But unfortunately, this was one of those books that just made me feel frustrated with the narrator, and when I feel this way about a memoir, I come away feeling like I'm pretty much a horrible, judgmental person.

The most interesting parts of this for me were her relationship with her husband, his family, and their son. In particular, the class differences between her husband and herself -- her husband came from a very wealthy family but eschewed all that to be a poet, so the two of them lived just above poverty level for most of their relationship. Unfortunately, she is intentionally vague about most of this, particularly the way their relationship dissolved -- perhaps to protect their privacy, or perhaps because she truly doesn't remember much of it, as she claims.

Although Karr is a graceful writer, there are stumbling blocks where something that might have worked in her primary medium of poetry doesn't work so well in prose. In particular, I got hung up by her frequent use of a backwards sentence construction along the lines of, "Black, it was," which may have perhaps been okay on the page, but in the audiobook version, just sounded like random Yoda-speak.

And this is, unfortunately, one of those cases where I feel like it behooves me to warn potential readers away from the audiobook version. Karr reads it herself, and her voice is pretty monotonous, which makes the whole memoir feel more cynical or depressing than it has to be.