The Art of Memoir

Credited with sparking the current memoir explosion, Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club spent more than a year at the top of the New York Times list. She followed with two other smash bestsellers: Cherry and Lit, which were critical hits as well.For thirty years Karr has also taught the form, winning teaching prizes at Syracuse.  (The writing program there produced such acclaimed authors as Cheryl Strayed, Keith Gessen, and Koren Zailckas.) In The Art of Memoir, she synthesizes her expertise as professor and therapy patient, writer and spiritual seeker, recovered alcoholic and “black belt sinner,” providing a unique window into the mechanics and art of the form that is as irreverent, insightful, and entertaining as her own work in the genre.Anchored by excerpts from her favorite memoirs and anecdotes from fellow writers’ experience, The Art of Memoir lays bare Karr’s own process. (Plus all those inside stories about how she dealt with family and friends get told— and the dark spaces in her own skull probed in depth.) As she breaks down the key elements of great literary memoir, she breaks open our concepts of memory and identity, and illuminates the cathartic power of reflecting on the past; anybody with an inner life or complicated history, whether writer or reader, will relate.Joining such classics as Stephen King’s On Writing and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, The Art of Memoir is an elegant and accessible exploration of one of today’s most popular literary forms—a tour de force from an accomplished master pulling back the curtain on her craft.

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Review

“Karr is a national treasure—that rare genius who’s also a brilliant teacher. This joyful celebration of memoir packs transcendent insights with trademark hilarity. Anyone yearning to write will be inspired, and anyone passionate to live an examined life will fall in love with language and literature all over again. ” (George Saunders)

“Could have been called ‘The Art of Living.’” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“Mary Karr has written another astonishingly perceptive, wildly entertaining, and profoundly honest book-funny, fascinating, necessary. The Art of Memoir will be the definitive book on reading and writing memoir for years to come.” (Cheryl Strayed)

“Should be required reading for anyone attempting to write a memoir, but anyone who loves literature will enjoy it too.” (Wall Street Journal)

“Terrific and deliciously readable guide.” (Entertainment Weekly, “Must List”)

“Full of Karr’s usual wit, compassion and, perhaps most reassuringly, self-doubt. Her fans should be delighted—and they can’t go wrong reading the books she discusses, including her own.” (Washington Post)

“From a contemporary luminary of the form, Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir examines our enduring drive to make memory speak and to ‘wring some truth from this godawful mess of a single life.’” (Vogue)

The Art of Memoir is passionate and irreverent-and reminds us why we love a good memoir.” (Elle)

“Mary Karr strikes a vein in The Art of Memoir.” (Vanity Fair)

“Karr is such fun to read-who else would combine the name Nabokov and the phrase “out the wazoo” on her very first page?” (New Yorker)

From the Back Cover

In The Art of Memoir, master memoirist Mary Karr synthesizes her expertise as professor and therapy patient, writer and spiritual seeker, recovered alcoholic and “black-belt sinner,” providing a unique window into the mechanics and art of the form that is as irreverent, insightful, and entertaining as her own work in the genre. Anchored by excerpts from her favorite memoirs and anecdotes from fellow writers’ experience, The Art of Memoir lays bare Karr’s own process as she breaks down the key elements of great literary memoir.

See all Editorial Reviews
Credited with sparking the current memoir explosion, Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club spent more than a year at the top of the New York Times list. She followed with two other smash bestsellers: Cherry and Lit, which were critical hits as well.For thirty years Karr has also taught the form, winning teaching prizes at Syracuse.  (The writing program there produced such acclaimed authors as Cheryl Strayed, Keith Gessen, and Koren Zailckas.) In The Art of Memoir, she synthesizes her expertise as professor and therapy patient, writer and spiritual seeker, recovered alcoholic and “black belt sinner,” providing a unique window into the mechanics and art of the form that is as irreverent, insightful, and entertaining as her own work in the genre.Anchored by excerpts from her favorite memoirs and anecdotes from fellow writers’ experience, The Art of Memoir lays bare Karr’s own process. (Plus all those inside stories about how she dealt with family and friends get told— and the dark spaces in her own skull probed in depth.) As she breaks down the key elements of great literary memoir, she breaks open our concepts of memory and identity, and illuminates the cathartic power of reflecting on the past; anybody with an inner life or complicated history, whether writer or reader, will relate.Joining such classics as Stephen King’s On Writing and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, The Art of Memoir is an elegant and accessible exploration of one of today’s most popular literary forms—a tour de force from an accomplished master pulling back the curtain on her craft.

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