"Art of Memoir" by Mary Karr

By Mary Karr

Reviewed by Shari

ISBN 9780062223074

It is one thing to read a book by a seasoned writer, one who has infinite command of the English language. It is another thing to read a book by both a seasoned writer and seasoned teacher. Mary Karr, in her primer Art of Memoir, is both. In succinct prose, Karr lays out a set of guidelines for those who have interest in the genre of memoir from both a reading and writing standpoint. She say’s of writing this book… after fifty-plus years of reading every memoir I could track down and thirty teaching the best ones (plus getting paid to bang out three), I spent last year trying to cobble up what a physicist would call a Unified field Theory or Theory of Everything about the form. Karr cautions the reader that that writing a memoir is an extremely challenging yet rewarding endeavor. Her chapters line up to guide a potential memoirist through the essential questions one should ask before setting a personal story to paper, questions that include, how to find your authentic voice, how to write from memory, how to remain honest, how to work with those you write about, how to write from a loving place, who to share early manuscripts with, and how to deal with the emotional cost of digging up all those memories in the first place. I think Karr would say that the memoir writer is special breed and not all are born to the task and I think she would also say that writing a memoir is both an act of literature and an act of catharsis. If you love memoir, read this book. If you need a nudge to write your memoir, read this book. If you like this one I would recommend reading Karr’s bestselling books (memoirs all three), Liar’s Club, Cherry and Lit.

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