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The Liars' Club brought to vivid, indelible life Mary Karr's hardscrabble Texas childhood. Cherry, her account of her adolescence, "continued to set the literary standard for making the personal universal" (Entertainment Weekly). Now Lit follows the self-professed blackbelt sinner's descent into the inferno of alcoholism and madness—and to her astonishing resurrection.

Karr's longing for a solid family seems secure when her marriage to a handsome, Shakespeare-quoting blueblood poet produces a son they adore. But she can't outrun her apocalyptic past. She drinks herself into the same numbness that nearly devoured her charismatic but troubled mother, reaching the brink of suicide. A hair-raising stint in "The Mental Marriott," with an oddball tribe of gurus and saviors, awakens her to the possibility of joy and leads her to an unlikely faith. Not since Saint Augustine cried, "Give me chastity, Lord—but not yet!" has a conversion story rung with such dark hilarity.

Lit is about getting drunk and getting sober; becoming a mother by letting go of a mother; learning to write by learning to live. Written with Karr's relentless honesty, unflinching self-scrutiny, and irreverent, lacerating humor, it is a truly electrifying story of how to grow up—as only Mary Karr can tell it.

Topics: Abuse, Mental Illness, Parenting, Marriage, Alcoholism, Addiction, Mothers, Writing, Texas, Spirituality , Witty, Poetry, Black Humor, and Touching

Published: HarperCollins on Nov 3, 2009
ISBN: 9780061959684
List price: $8.99
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I read Mary Karr's book a lot quicker than I expected, I think because reading it is so much like watching a train wreck, which is a problem not of style (excellent) but of content (gruesome). It was horrible, but somehow I couldn't look away so I just finished as quickly as possible.The story follows Karr thru her drugging, boozing and whining (possibly the worst of it) years until she finally, resentfully, started getting sober, found god (eventually joining the Catholic church) and became bearable to be around. I'm not into the god-stuff myself, but whatever it takes someone to stop whining is aces with me.read more
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Honest, extraordinarily well written memoir -- just what you'd expect from the author of "The Liars' Club." This time, Karr tells the story of her journey into adulthood -- including marriage, motherhood, alcoholism, sobriety, divorce, religious faith and ultimately literary and commercial success. It's a harrowing tale but she makes it pretty funny at times. Even if you're not a big memoir reader -- I'm not -- this one is worth the time.read more
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This was a wonderful memoir showing the origins and downward spiral of addiction and addictive personalities. I loved reading about Mary Karr's emotional and spiritual growth throughout the course of the book. I wish I had read Liar's Club first, but I am definitely ready to read it soon!read more
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Book OverviewLit is Mary Karr's third memoir. Her first, The Liar's Club, chronicled her toxic childhood in Texas and her volatile relationship with her artistic, raging, alcoholic mother and sad, distant, drunken father. Her second memoir, Cherry, covered her adolescence and sexual coming-of-age. In her third memoir, she writes about her adult life—college, career, marriage and motherhood—and her struggle to overcome her childhood wounds and alcoholism.The book opens with a letter to her son Dev and two short vignettes that set the framework for the story to come. In one of the vignettes, Karr describes herself as a young mother too drunk to see straight, shivering outside on the small porch while chain-smoking and drinking whiskey and promising to change the burnt-out light bulb on the porch tomorrow. Yet when tomorrow comes, the mother finds herself once again shivering in the night air, drinking, smoking and promising once again to change the light bulb. In this one short chapter, Karr sets the tone for the entire memoir.The narrative starts right before Karr's college years and progresses chronologically through her life—her struggle to be a poet and writer, her failed marriage to another poet who grew up in a wealthy but emotionally distant family, her struggles with motherhood, her years of therapy and attempts to come to terms with each of her parents, her desperate struggle with alcohol and then her long and painful process to become sober—which included a stop in a mental hospital. But strip away the rest of it, and this books is really about an alcoholic's struggle to become sober and finding God along the way. It is also about Karr's attempts to make peace with her mother, whose love she never felt sure of and whose personality shaped so much of what she ended up being as a mother and a woman.My ThoughtsThe Liar's Club was one of the first memoirs I ever read and pretty much set the bar for all memoirs I read afterward. The book is powerful and made me realize what memoirs could be. Although she provides a sort of coda at the end of The Liar's Club, you still end up wondering how she survived her childhood and want to know more about the family's fate. This book provides those answers and is a must read for anyone who read The Liar's Club.What makes Mary Karr's memoirs stand out from the pack is her writing. She has a true gift for language and a bluntness that serves her well. She is exceedingly honest in her self-assessment and spares herself nothing. Yet she manages to convey all the ugliness of her life in this beautiful prose that left me marveling. Here are just a few of the passages that I marked while reading.On her feelings about the power of poetry: Such a small, pure object a poem could be, made of nothing but air, a tiny string of letters, maybe small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. But it could blow everybody's head off.On describing how she slowly began to see the power of God in her life: This is what an unbeliever might call self-hypnosis; a believer might say it's the presence of God. Let's call it a draw and concede that the process of listing my good fortune stopped my scrambling fear, and in relinquishing that, some solid platform slid under me.On beginning to write again after a long absence: The writing has come back—with a polished quiet around it. Somehow I feel freer to fail. But the work mortifies me. Previously I'd seen the poems as adorable offspring, but they've become the most pathetic bunch of little bow-legged, snaggle-toothed pinheads imaginable. Even the book I published with such pride a few years before—eager to foist it on anybody who'd read it—now seems egregiously dull, sophomoric, phony. If the pages were big enough, I might as well use them to wrap fish.I think at its core, this book is about Mary Karr's struggle to become sober and accept God in her life. Throughout the book—as her drinking leads to more and more problems—she tries to run from the demons of her past. Yet when she is finally scared into trying to stop drinking, she fights the help of a Higher Power tooth and nail. As she begrudgingly begins to accept what her sober friends tell her—that accepting God (in whatever way you perceive God) is the only way to true sobriety and peace—she takes you step by step through her conversion process and it is incredibly revealing and powerful. More than any other book I've read, I think this book probably makes the best case for the power of prayer and why God's presence can make a difference in a life.My Final RecommendationIf you've read The Liar's Club, you really must read this book to get the rest of Mary Karr's story and how her relationship with her mother resolves itself. (The chapter at the end of the book where she moves her elderly mother out of her falling down house and into a condominium was an incredibly powerful piece of writing.)If you've struggled with drinking and been distrustful of the role that prayer and a Higher Power can play in getting sober, this book is a must read as it presents the unvarnished truth about Mary Karr's struggle to get sober and her initial distrust and eventual acceptance of the role of God in her life. Readers will appreciate her skepticism because it makes her eventual conversion all the more believable and powerful.If you enjoy reading memoirs, Mary Karr has both the life and the writing skills to make a top-notch memoir that is both literary and down-to-earth. This isn't the easiest book to read as the subject matter is often sad and disturbing; yet, at the same time, it is often filled with humor and a "humanness" that speaks to us all. Although it took me a while to read (as I often needed a break from it due to the often depressing story), I felt it was well worth my time, and it left me thinking about spirituality and the power of prayer.read more
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In the prologue to her memoir Cherry, Karr describes herself leaving her childhood home, an oil refinery town on the East Texas Gulf Coast and striking out for the dream of California surf. When it quickly proves to be an impoverished and frightening nightmare, she heads for college and desperately tries to fit in. Unsuccessful at this, she tries drinking and running off. Fortunately she finds poetry and a mentor, and throws herself, reluctantly at first, into the literary life. A decade later however, marriage to another poet from a wealthy family, publication, academic success, and motherhood fail to bring her the escape she’s seeking. So she finds herself living for the anesthetic comfort of the bottle, but the bottle let her down.“At the end of my drinking, the kingdom I longed for, slaved for, and a the end of each day lunged at was a rickety slab of unreal estate about four foot square—a back stair landing off my colonial outside Cambridge, Mass. I’d sit hunched against the door guzzling whisky and smoking Marlboros while wires from a tinny walkman piped blues into my head. Through hours there were frequently spent howling inwardly about the melting ice floe of my marriage, this spate of hours was the highlight of my day.” Page 7Recovering alcoholics often say that there are only three possible outcomes of their addiction: You either end up locked-up, covered-up, or sober-up. Fortunately for American letters and herself, Karr sobered up.read more
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This was my first ebook and I liked the experience more than I though I would. I've read Karr's previous memoirs but didn't remember the details. As with the previous works, she writes from quite a distance from when these events took place. Ultimately, this is about Mary facing her life and her decisions, namely her drinking, her reasons and biology for drinking and her marriage. It's also about her ability to keep the artistic part of herself throught all the turmoil in her life. Religion figures heavily into her success with sobriety and life. My favorite parts were her descriptions of her relationship with her mother and my least favorite were the religious pieces.read more
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Non-celebrity memoir has become particularly hot during the last decade or so, and Mary Karr's first work in the genre, The Liars' Club (1995) was one of the books that helped start that fire. Poetic, moving, and both darkly humorous and horrifying in its depiction of her seriously screwed-up Texas childhood, Karr's story was compulsively readable. She continued it into adolescence in Cherry (2000), and brings her audience up to date in her most recent volume, Lit (2009), now out in paperback. I've read them all, and in my opinion, she saved the best for last.As she entered adulthood, Karr was well aware of her problematic past, and tried to get as far away from it as she could while letting it continue to pull her back in. Following an erratic path to a writing life, she found herself in some unlikely situations - poet laureate of Minneapolis - before landing in a New England graduate program and meeting the Ivy-League-educated, old-money poet she would eventually marry. Struggling with her own poetry and the challenges of a marriage of seeming unequals, her long habit of finding refuge in alcohol escalates, and motherhood complicates it more. Fighting the opposing pulls of addiction and sobriety eventually lands her in a mental institution, where she finally begins to accept that she needs to give the "higher power" her recovery supporters keep talking about a fair shot.Lit's basic arc is familiar - downward spiral, hitting bottom, finding one's way back up - but Karr's telling of the story is all her own. While a successful memoir needs a compelling story - and through all of hers, Karr certainly has one - it's her writing that has made her books stand out in the genre. It's clear from her prose that her background is in poetry, and while I'm not a poetry fan, I found myself noting and appreciating her craft. That craft is put to use in sharing a personal history that I couldn't identify with in all aspects - I've never been addicted to anything except books - but which was honest and revealing of thoughts and emotions that I could relate to. I think most mothers would recognize parts of Mary's descriptions of early motherhood; some of us have experienced marital difficulties not unlike hers and "Warren's"; and her reluctant, ambivalent approach to prayer and spirituality (even now) felt somewhat familiar to me. Karr is often hard on herself, and that was another thing I found familiar - and appealing.Karr retells enough from her earlier memoirs that it's not strictly necessary to read them before reading Lit. I have read them, but I don't recall a lot of their details, and I have to admit I read them, at least in part, because they were "everybody's talking about them" books. More universal than the earlier parts of her story, Lit's depiction of coming into adulthood, coming through darkness, and coming into peace is truthful and ultimately triumphant. This was the first of Karr's memoirs that I truly wanted to read for the story she was telling, and I think it's the one I'll remember best (and would consider reading again).read more
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Mary is the funniest authors I have ever heard speak. She had me close to falling off my chair at BookExpo 2009 in NYC. She reveals all of her warts and all and makes her ldevastating ove affair with alcohol hilarious in its hold on her life and all of its events. Her book has as nearly as much charm, wit and honesty as the real deal. I loved her book and now love her through her words.read more
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I love the double entendre that is this book's title, Lit. This third memoir from Karr (the first: Liars Club, the second: Cherry) picks up with Mary finally escaping Texas--but not the family alcoholism. With her characteristic unflinchingly honest prose that's nevertheless penned with a poetic beauty, she tells us about her education, the beginnings of her teaching career, her marriage, and becoming a mother, all under the influence of alcohol. She also takes us through what it took for her to get sober, her kicking and screaming deliverance into belief in a higher power, and the beginnings of her success as a poet and writer. It isn't an easy read--she's had more than her fair share of dark times--but it had no trouble keeping my attention. Don't worry if you haven't read her other two books--she fills in just enough detail from her early years to keep things coherent. This one is bound to be yet another of her books parked on the best seller lists for months.read more
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I make it a point to avoid any reviews of books that I am reading to review…but I can’t imagine that they don’t all say similar things about “Lit”. The words that come to mind are “brutally honest”…but that’s not quite right. Even though she recounts some truly horrifying events in her life, the effect isn’t brutal. I suppose “unflinchingly honest” is closer...but even that doesn’t capture the feeling of this book.Karr’s words just seem so human. She talks about such sad, hurtful and scary things in her life…and though I am lucky enough to not have much real life experience with those events, they are told in such a way that I am able to relate to her and feel real empathy towards her. She makes terrible mistakes in her life, and yet, I certainly don’t condemn her. It’s as if she’s laid herself out to the reader in such a way that one realizes that our forgiveness (while unnecessary) is far easier to earn than the forgiveness of her toughest enemy…herself.“It’s taken me so much effort just to do as medium-sh***y as I’ve heretofore done. Just to drop out of college, stay alive, and have my teeth taken care of.”Her words have an interesting effect…one can almost feel the Mary Karr experiencing the moment in the past – being watched over and commented on by the Mary Karr that exists in the present writing about that moment. There’s an essence of both women in the tone of the words, and both perspectives are heartfelt.“Touching that triangle of yellowed paper today is like sliding my hand into the glove of my seventeen-year-old hand. Through magic, there are the Iowa fields slipping by with all the wholesome prosperity they represent. And there is my mother, not yet born into the ziplock baggie of ash my sister sent me years ago with the frank message Mom ½ , written in laundry pen, since no one in our family ever stood on ceremony.”I felt a bit anxious as I read her story…like I was watching someone wander around on the freeway – I kept wanting to pull her away from the oncoming traffic and keep her safe; especially during the worst times.“I find myself squatting in the bedroom closet with two incongruent bottles, whiskey and Listerine – the latter with accompanying spit bowl. Despite the dark, it feels safe in here, leaning against the back wall with clothes before my face.”There’s such a ferocity to many of her feelings, you can’t help but root for her to find her way out of the dark. “And that’s it, that instant. My life as I’ve shaped it includes – for that instant only – the daddy I once loved more than beans and rice.”And there’s a beauty to her words as well, especially when she is talking about her son. “Maybe you could loan me some of the shine in your young head to clear up my leftover dark spaces. Just as you’re blameless for the scorched part of your childhood, I’m equally exonerated for my own mother’s nightmare.”Towards the end of the book, I began to realize there was more to the title of the book than the slang definition of the word. I began to see that Karr was going to be successful at fighting off the dark. That instead of searching for the answer at the bottom of a bottle, she might find it in the depths of her soul.This book is a triumph of words and of spirit. And even though it involves finding religion…there isn’t one preachy or false word about it. It’s again the humanity, the honesty of her words that make them ring true.To experience the story of a person who goes from this: “The warmth beaming from her face can’t reach me. I’m too bent over some rotted core, as if to protect it from her.”to this: “Such vast quiet holds me, and the me I’ve been so lifelong worried about shoring up just dissolves like ash in water. Just isn’t. In its place is this clean air. There’s a space at the bottom of an exhale, a little hitch between taking in and letting out that’s a perfect zero you can go into.”Lit…it’s a perfect title for this journey, fits both bookends of the story, and captures the true luminosity of Mary Karr’s words.read more
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Her first two memoirs are really my favorites, but this one is one of the best examples of her style. Even when she is discussing the worst parts of her adult life, Karr is poignant and clever. I like her immensely, and I can almost see myself in her son, Dev. There is an excellent circularity to this book; beginning with her letter to Dev as a mom and ending with her own mother. She went through a lot, and I applaud her ability to write it out and remain an entertaining writer.read more
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Did you ever get part way through a book and wonder-Should I just walk away from this and then all of a sudden you can't put it down? That's what happened with Lit by Mary Karr. It's the story of her life as an alcoholic, parent, wife, daughter, writer, etc. The beginning chapters seemed wrapped in pretension so deep that I found it difficult to wade through the words. While the words were beautifully placed on the page I became entangled in them to the point that the story was swept away in a literary rip tide. Then out of nowhere the water cleared and I found Mary and her story, and what a story she has to tell. How much can you blame your parents for? How much of the mistakes that you make do you have to own? Thought provoking and enlightening for those of us with dysfunctional lives, but written so beautifully we could only dream of being able to convey these thoughts with such beautiful prose.read more
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Lit By Mary Karr. Her third memoir, this book portrays the later years of Mary Karr's life. In detail she describes to her reader a childhood full of fear and isolation. Her adulthood leaned immediately toward the center of destruction. As her mother finally finds sobriety, she takes her place in a dangerous world of alcoholism (says the universe can only handle one drunk Karr at a time). Ms. Karr's memoir is real and honest and scary. She doesn't hold back at all to make a picture that is remotely pretty or happy. When she later is sober she searches for religion, god and some faith to hold onto. Ms. Karr's memoir is at times funny (believe it or not) her excellent writing is poetic and unique and her path is one that is taken everyday by many. It can be a depressing read as are most that deal with drugs, alcohol and abuse. She and her sister (seemingly her one and only rock and bright light through her life, bless her) set out to find normalcy, forgiveness and still deeply love their mother and father. While this can be a hard read, mystifying for some, too close to home for others, some books need to be read.read more
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This is the third memoir that Karr has written about her life. Since she has not been President or a great military general, we know she must describe her life in considerable detail in order to fill three books. We learn from this book that she's had a lot of experience telling her life's story and dredging through the depths of her feelings because she has spent considerable time doing both in counseling sessions with mental health therapists. A book based on this kind of material is not the sort of stuff that would normally interest me. However, this book has been praised by many reviewers as being the ultimate example of good memoir writing. So I wanted to see for myself, and yes I found her to be a good writer. The book kept my interest even though I may not be predisposed to appreciate this type of story.Her story recounts her painful journey to overcome her compulsion to consume alcohol. Before this victory is achieved the story is one of slow disintegration. One would think that once sobriety is achieved that everything would be better. But ironically, once she's free from liquor she experiences suicidal depression. A story such as this of an adult drinking their life into ruin and misery is not as satisfying as other memoirs where a talented young person overcomes the handicap of bad parents to become a successful adult (e.g. The Glass House, Angela's Ashes or perhaps Karr's first memoir, which I haven't read, Liars' Club). One thing I did appreciate about this book is that it comes about as close as is possible to explaining the motivations behind self-destructive behavior (but it's still irrational). However, I want to acknowledge, and I'm thankful, that she checked herself into a hospital prior to doing physical harm to herself when she felt driven to suicide. So the book can serve as a positive and inspirational guide to those suffering similar trials.One interesting thing about this book is that she spends considerable time debating with herself, as a confirmed atheist, about her seeking help from a "higher power" to overcoming her alcoholism. It's a dialog filled with humor, irony and pathos. (UNBELIEVERS BEWARE! This book may threaten your faith.)I have to admire her willingness to say some unflattering things about herself that, frankly, most of us wouldn't put into our own memoirs. She also refrains from bad-mouthing her ex's (hubby or boy-friends) which I presume she could have. She reflects enough on her childhood in this book to make it clear that it was a dozy. The irony is that if she had been spared from her horrible upbringing, she wouldn't have been able to write her best-selling memoir of her childhood, The Liars' Club. And if she didn't have ghosts from her past to conquer, she wouldn't have been able to write this book.So where does this title come from? From various reviews I have learned that it is a triple pun: lit as in literature, lit as in intoxicated, and lit as in spiritual enlightenment.read more
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Meh. About 1/2 way, and losing interest . . .

Really annoying that you can only "finish" a book. This one I abandoned.read more
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Lit is the third memoir by poet Mary Karr covering the dissolution of her marriage, her battle with alcoholism, recovery and conversion to Catholicism. It was well written and enjoyable to read, not as gut wrenching as some of the other getting sober books I've read like Dry by Augustan Burroughs and A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. I'm looking forward to reading Karr's two prior memoirs, The Liar's Club and Cherry.read more
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"At the end of my drinking, the kingdom I longed for, slaved for, and at the end of each day lunged at, was a rickety slab of unreal estate about four foot square - a back stair landing off my colonial outside Cambridge, Mass. I'd sit hunched against the door guzzling whiskey and smoking Marlboros while wires from a tinny walkman piped blues into my head. Though hours there were frequently spent howling inwardly about the melting ice floe of my marriage, this spate of hours was the highlight of my day...My sole link to reality was the hard plastic baby monitor. Should a cough or cry start, its signal light stabbed into my wide pupils like an ice pick."That's Mary Karr. With just a handful of words, she snatches you into the bleak world of her alcoholism, the images of the alcohol melting her icy marriage, washing her away, the only thing tethering her to the world her intense guilt over the damage she is doing to her son. She uses language like a poet, her images gripping yet subtle, darkly comic at times, gut-wrenching at others. I read her previous memoir, THE LIAR'S CLUB, a few years back; it's much funnier than LIT, but it does not have the humanity and vulnerability that illumines LIT.Perhaps that is due to the story itself. THE LIAR'S CLUB is the story of a younger, feistier Mary; LIT is the story of a mature woman, one who has finally confronted the demons that an earlier Mary merely mocked and taunted. The Mary Karr of LIT is a more disciplined, insightful, and spiritual woman; she can't help being funny, bless her, but this time her wit is not directed outward, to shore up bravado, but is instead self-deprecating and realistic, as if to say: "This is the flawed world I live in, and I too am flawed; but flaws are not what define me." I found the story of her fight with alcoholism often painful and bleak to read, but unlike her earlier memoirs, these dark times are lightened with her burgeoning spirituality and ultimate conversion. Her stories of the wisdom she found in her AA meetings are some of the most powerful in the book, and - does this sound naive? - I felt genuinely inspired by them. LIT reveals a much more open and vulnerable Mary ; this time I felt I actually got to know her, and I truly liked the person I was meeting.read more
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Brilliant and moving. Life-altering. Makes me want to write memoir, and I don't do memoir.read more
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Lit is a drunkalogue. If you know what that word means, you'll know what I mean. It's a tremendously well written drunkalogue, but a drunkalogue nonetheless.read more
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Reading Mary Karr’s latest memoir, "Lit," is akin to catching up with an old friend over a cup of coffee or, perhaps in this case, over something a bit stronger than coffee. Karr’s earlier memoirs, "The Liars’ Club" (1995), which covered her childhood years, and "Cherry" (2000), the story of her adolescence and early adulthood, established for her a well deserved reputation as an exceptional memoirist. Now, some nine years after "Cherry," Karr completes her story, for now, by revealing how she managed to overcome the odds to escape both the insular little town in which she grew up and the quirky upbringing she endured there.One thing is certain; Mary Karr has not had an easy time of it. Growing up in a muggy, mosquito ridden little East Texas refinery town, one in which its residents breathe polluted air no matter from which direction it blows (as I well remember), she was raped by a teenaged neighbor when she was eight years old. Her father, a heavy drinking refinery worker, loved her dearly but was not exactly a role model for his daughters. Her seven-times-married, artistic mother was a bit of a desperado in spirit who struggled with a tendency toward full-blown psychotic episodes throughout much of her life. As she so frankly details in "Lit," Mary Karr is a combination of the good and the bad components of both her parents. Always a bit of a rebel at heart like her mother, she went into the world resenting those born to wealth as much as her father disliked them, taking pride that she could at least outdrink those who “had been born on third base” but who believed “they hit a home run.” And outdrink them, Mary did - all the way to the point of her own debilitating struggle with alcoholism, a struggle that would steal years of her life and ultimately destroy the marriage that produced her son. It was a close thing, but Mary managed to save herself, and she accomplished it by doing something so completely out of character for her that it still surprises her. She turned to prayer and organized religion despite a lifetime spent scoffing at both. Despairing and suicidal, she committed herself to what she calls “The Mental Marriott” and the timeout there that would ultimately lead her to place her future in the hands of God, the possibility of whose existence she previously had not been able to take seriously. "Lit" is a word of several meanings when it comes to Mary Karr. It can be a reference to her success in the literary world or it can be used to describe the drunken state in which she spent so many of her waking hours for so many years. Finally, and most hopefully, it also describes the religious experience that saved Mary Karr’s life when she finally “saw the light.”Fans of Karr’s previous memoirs will be pleased with this inspirational addition to her story, but "Lit" also works well for those reading her for the first time, so well that I suspect the new Karr readers will now want to turn to the first two books. Rated at: 5.0read more
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I really disliked this book for the first half. I was constantly wondering why I was reading this and why someone felt she needed to write about it. Basically, I wondered, "who cares?" But towards the end, while the story didn't change, I started to like the story. It's not great. It's not really worth reading, but its not terrible. People who can relate to her struggle may enjoy it more.read more
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From My Blog...Lit by Mary Karr is her third memoir and the first book I have read by her. By all accounts, Karr had a brutal childhood, which shaped her teenage years as well as her adult years, the years focused on in Lit. Karr opens the book with a letter to her son in which she mentions this book is her way to try and explain to him how she ended up an alcoholic and how she found her way back out and is now the person she is. The short of it is an alcoholic mother who deals with divorce, raising a child, and reclaiming her life.By nature I adore memoirs and the glimpses into the lives of others, and the lessons to be learned from those that have gone before me. I really wanted to love Lit, but I did not, which is not to say Karr did not do a splendid job writing because she did. Her prose is close to perfect and in a laid back manner that makes the reader feel as though Karr is directly speaking to the reader. Karr fluidly goes through the years and her experiences, the good, bad, and downright ugly, sparing nothing, or so it appears, and at a rather fast clip. Karr’s rawness is most likely a trademark she uses in her memoirs, however not having read the other two, I cannot be certain on that account. Karr’s ability to write about her spiraling down to rock bottom, beginning shortly after her son was born must have taken an amazing feat of inner strength, not to mention her sharing her story with the world. I truly enjoyed all of Karr’s literary references (she even mentions my beloved Nabokov) and found Lit an interesting read, but I did not love it.I have been trying to pinpoint what exactly makes my opinion of Lit just average. Certainly it is not based on the writing style, nor the lack of information provided by Karr, for she has an abundance of information at times, to a point where I think some character development was lost. I simply found Lit to be a good book with a narrative I have heard before, different names, and circumstances to be sure, yet sadly an all too familiar tale. It is quite possible my opinion would change if I read the previous two books, The Liars’ Club and Cherry, which would give me the entire picture of Karr’s life, but I can only go with what I have in front of me, which is Lit. Would I recommend Lit? Certainly. Do I believe a lot can be gleamed from Karr’s life and others can learn from her experiences? Absolutely. I would strongly recommend reading the other reviews on the tour, as mine is just one opinion in a vast sea of opinions.read more
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A book that ends on a different note.. Those who have read her other best-selling previous memoirs: “Liars Poker” and “Cherry” will find many of the same characters, mother, sister, memories of her father. But this chapter of her life takes us beyond the Texas poor town where she was brought up into a completely different world, college in the upper Midwest, Cambridge, Syracuse, marriage and divorce, birth of a child, the vicissitudes of adult life with little money. All coupled with the trials of an addiction and mental disturbances. Told with the verve of an accomplished storyteller and the vocabulary of a poet. Both of which KarrISread more
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This is the third of poet Mary Karr's memoirs, covering her college days through her success as a writer. Though in the first half of the book she seems whiny, that's the point. The book details her journey from bottomed-out alcoholic mom to AA supplicant trying to find her "higher power". She shops for a church to belong to, finally settling on Catholicism. Her trials include an irresponsible "taker" of a mother (also a recovering alcoholic), and a set of in-laws who, although they're among the most affluent families in America, are hard-wired for only coldness and frugality when it comes to aiding their proud, struggling poet son and his family. I don't want to suggest that this book is depressing. Far from it. Karr's native sense of humor never fails her even in her darkest moments. The final chapters are beautiful and inspiring, tempting even one such as myself, who has given up on faith in a higher power, to give it another go.read more
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Confession is one of the main tenets of Catholicism, and this memoir by Mary Karr seems to be both the confession and the penance she pays in her late conversion to Catholicism at the final third of the book.Is there such a thing as being too honest? Karr confesses to her lifelong addiction to alcohol, and all the ugly events that occurred during her life because of her alcoholism. She's brutally honest, which takes a ton of guts, because I really couldn't stand her as I read it. She wrote this as a form of atonement to her son for her years of poor mothering and distance. Essentially she had a tragic childhood filled with ugliness and pain. She longs to be a poet, to find a way to make magic with words and leave her mark on the world. But given that, she spends very little time discussing her actual development of poetry, instead she professes her love for the 'look' of poets: the starving artist, the tortured soul who is misunderstood and unappreciated, almost like she's reaching for the costume. It seems like she wants to join the poet's club rather than actually be a poet. Maybe her real gift is in this form of writing, the memoir. It's her third. She has no trouble with words in this respect. She writes well, in a witty, self-deprecating way. She doesn't ask for sympathy or pity, and in many ways that would be hard to give. Is it wrong to say she's selfish and rude, when she's gone so far to be this honest? Because that's the impression she gives. She does have her conversion at the end, which I found a little bit offputting, because again she seems to want to join a club rather than really feel a spiritual connection. And yet she points out the all people have a spiritual need, and I do agree with that. But her roller coaster ride with finding sobriety makes her unpleasant and irritating. No doubt some of it had to do with the alcohol. It's just very difficult to tolerate her reeling off stories of how often she drove drunk with her son in the car, how she avoided caring for her sick son, and how being alone with her child was boring and a chore. I don't get that, alcoholism or not. So many times she put him in danger, when she had the resources to get help and refused it. When counselors told her to count her blessings, she couldn't think of any: not the sweet little boy she had, nor the home, the loving husband, etc. When asked what she wanted in life, her answer was "more money". And while she complained about being judged unfairly, she was the most judgemental of all. It seems so out of touch. In all, it was a good read in terms of learning about alcoholism and the recovery process. There were a few gems of wisdom in it, as when a counselor told her if she worries she will be judged, she should ask herself 'what do you base that on?' If she admits it's her own imagination and worry, than it has to be dismissed. She's repeatedly told to stop imagining what people think of her, and to realize that everyone is worrying about their own problems, not hers. All her worries about not measuring up or fitting in, which she used alcohol to mask, had to go in order for her to not feel the need for the alcohol.I admire her candor, and respect her efforts to make amends. I don't agree with all her premises at the end, but I'm glad she got her life together.read more
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The third volume in Karr's series of memoirs covers her adulthood, her addictions, her marriage and motherhood and her eventual conversion to Christianity. Her sardonic powers of observation remain unscathed by any of this, thankfully. It's very raw and funny and well worth reading if you are a fan of her earlier works.read more
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Mary Karr’s Lit is magnificent. It completes her life story as began in The Liar’s Club and Cherry by detailing her marriage, motherhood, her battle with alcoholism and her rise as a literary talent. In this memoir Karr achieves a forceful honesty that holds nothing back in her self examination. Because she is a poet, one expects her writing to compel in story as much as language and will not be disappointed. Sometimes I felt as if I was actually experiencing Karr’s moments right beside her. Instead I felt lucky to be able to read a book that is certain to become a classic. And is sure to please faithful fans and transfix legions of new readers.read more
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Aiiieee. Okay, so I guess I can see how someone would take the "things start going well when I get sober" concept and decide, because prayer was keeping her sober, that god was giving her good things because she was asking for them, and not because she was finally not wasted every time she talked to a book agent. Especially if she is convinced she's the most important person in the world and so an omnipotent, all-powerful creator of the universe being deeply invested in her writing career makes sense in her head. I make a lot of allowances, in sobriety writing, because I believe that whatever gets you sober is good. Whatever works is good. But when Karr embraced not just a higher power, but Catholicism specifically and wholeheartedly, she lost me. Up to that point her concept of god is totally Quaker in nature - very personal, very present in the mundane and in nature -, and then she makes a jump to a religion that is the polar opposite, and she never addresses this. Certainly she never goes anywhere near the politics of the Catholic church. She is defensive about being religious without actually defending anything about her beliefs, which is an unpleasant combination. I also appreciated the completely unnecessary tirade Karr shares about how sober atheists are the angriest and meanest people you will ever meet. And how everyone Karr encounters asks her about her higher power, which if really happened means she was encountering people who shouldn't be in their line of work: if I was arriving suicidal at McLean, mentioned I'm an alcoholic, and the first question out of the counselor's mouth was, "Have you found your higher power yet?" my first priority would be finding another hospital and my second getting that person fired. Alternatively, this didn't actually happen but Karr says it did so she can tell stories of impressing everyone with her god connections. Yuck.read more
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I loved the Glass Castle and expected to like this more than I did. The writing wasn't as crisp, and the alcoholism and the God stuff just got tiresome after a while. Still, she's a better writer than most.read more
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Got about halfway through this book; put it in the "donate" pile. Realized I don't like the narrator, don't want to spend any more time with her. Life is too short.read more
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I read Mary Karr's book a lot quicker than I expected, I think because reading it is so much like watching a train wreck, which is a problem not of style (excellent) but of content (gruesome). It was horrible, but somehow I couldn't look away so I just finished as quickly as possible.The story follows Karr thru her drugging, boozing and whining (possibly the worst of it) years until she finally, resentfully, started getting sober, found god (eventually joining the Catholic church) and became bearable to be around. I'm not into the god-stuff myself, but whatever it takes someone to stop whining is aces with me.
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Honest, extraordinarily well written memoir -- just what you'd expect from the author of "The Liars' Club." This time, Karr tells the story of her journey into adulthood -- including marriage, motherhood, alcoholism, sobriety, divorce, religious faith and ultimately literary and commercial success. It's a harrowing tale but she makes it pretty funny at times. Even if you're not a big memoir reader -- I'm not -- this one is worth the time.
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This was a wonderful memoir showing the origins and downward spiral of addiction and addictive personalities. I loved reading about Mary Karr's emotional and spiritual growth throughout the course of the book. I wish I had read Liar's Club first, but I am definitely ready to read it soon!
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Book OverviewLit is Mary Karr's third memoir. Her first, The Liar's Club, chronicled her toxic childhood in Texas and her volatile relationship with her artistic, raging, alcoholic mother and sad, distant, drunken father. Her second memoir, Cherry, covered her adolescence and sexual coming-of-age. In her third memoir, she writes about her adult life—college, career, marriage and motherhood—and her struggle to overcome her childhood wounds and alcoholism.The book opens with a letter to her son Dev and two short vignettes that set the framework for the story to come. In one of the vignettes, Karr describes herself as a young mother too drunk to see straight, shivering outside on the small porch while chain-smoking and drinking whiskey and promising to change the burnt-out light bulb on the porch tomorrow. Yet when tomorrow comes, the mother finds herself once again shivering in the night air, drinking, smoking and promising once again to change the light bulb. In this one short chapter, Karr sets the tone for the entire memoir.The narrative starts right before Karr's college years and progresses chronologically through her life—her struggle to be a poet and writer, her failed marriage to another poet who grew up in a wealthy but emotionally distant family, her struggles with motherhood, her years of therapy and attempts to come to terms with each of her parents, her desperate struggle with alcohol and then her long and painful process to become sober—which included a stop in a mental hospital. But strip away the rest of it, and this books is really about an alcoholic's struggle to become sober and finding God along the way. It is also about Karr's attempts to make peace with her mother, whose love she never felt sure of and whose personality shaped so much of what she ended up being as a mother and a woman.My ThoughtsThe Liar's Club was one of the first memoirs I ever read and pretty much set the bar for all memoirs I read afterward. The book is powerful and made me realize what memoirs could be. Although she provides a sort of coda at the end of The Liar's Club, you still end up wondering how she survived her childhood and want to know more about the family's fate. This book provides those answers and is a must read for anyone who read The Liar's Club.What makes Mary Karr's memoirs stand out from the pack is her writing. She has a true gift for language and a bluntness that serves her well. She is exceedingly honest in her self-assessment and spares herself nothing. Yet she manages to convey all the ugliness of her life in this beautiful prose that left me marveling. Here are just a few of the passages that I marked while reading.On her feelings about the power of poetry: Such a small, pure object a poem could be, made of nothing but air, a tiny string of letters, maybe small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. But it could blow everybody's head off.On describing how she slowly began to see the power of God in her life: This is what an unbeliever might call self-hypnosis; a believer might say it's the presence of God. Let's call it a draw and concede that the process of listing my good fortune stopped my scrambling fear, and in relinquishing that, some solid platform slid under me.On beginning to write again after a long absence: The writing has come back—with a polished quiet around it. Somehow I feel freer to fail. But the work mortifies me. Previously I'd seen the poems as adorable offspring, but they've become the most pathetic bunch of little bow-legged, snaggle-toothed pinheads imaginable. Even the book I published with such pride a few years before—eager to foist it on anybody who'd read it—now seems egregiously dull, sophomoric, phony. If the pages were big enough, I might as well use them to wrap fish.I think at its core, this book is about Mary Karr's struggle to become sober and accept God in her life. Throughout the book—as her drinking leads to more and more problems—she tries to run from the demons of her past. Yet when she is finally scared into trying to stop drinking, she fights the help of a Higher Power tooth and nail. As she begrudgingly begins to accept what her sober friends tell her—that accepting God (in whatever way you perceive God) is the only way to true sobriety and peace—she takes you step by step through her conversion process and it is incredibly revealing and powerful. More than any other book I've read, I think this book probably makes the best case for the power of prayer and why God's presence can make a difference in a life.My Final RecommendationIf you've read The Liar's Club, you really must read this book to get the rest of Mary Karr's story and how her relationship with her mother resolves itself. (The chapter at the end of the book where she moves her elderly mother out of her falling down house and into a condominium was an incredibly powerful piece of writing.)If you've struggled with drinking and been distrustful of the role that prayer and a Higher Power can play in getting sober, this book is a must read as it presents the unvarnished truth about Mary Karr's struggle to get sober and her initial distrust and eventual acceptance of the role of God in her life. Readers will appreciate her skepticism because it makes her eventual conversion all the more believable and powerful.If you enjoy reading memoirs, Mary Karr has both the life and the writing skills to make a top-notch memoir that is both literary and down-to-earth. This isn't the easiest book to read as the subject matter is often sad and disturbing; yet, at the same time, it is often filled with humor and a "humanness" that speaks to us all. Although it took me a while to read (as I often needed a break from it due to the often depressing story), I felt it was well worth my time, and it left me thinking about spirituality and the power of prayer.
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In the prologue to her memoir Cherry, Karr describes herself leaving her childhood home, an oil refinery town on the East Texas Gulf Coast and striking out for the dream of California surf. When it quickly proves to be an impoverished and frightening nightmare, she heads for college and desperately tries to fit in. Unsuccessful at this, she tries drinking and running off. Fortunately she finds poetry and a mentor, and throws herself, reluctantly at first, into the literary life. A decade later however, marriage to another poet from a wealthy family, publication, academic success, and motherhood fail to bring her the escape she’s seeking. So she finds herself living for the anesthetic comfort of the bottle, but the bottle let her down.“At the end of my drinking, the kingdom I longed for, slaved for, and a the end of each day lunged at was a rickety slab of unreal estate about four foot square—a back stair landing off my colonial outside Cambridge, Mass. I’d sit hunched against the door guzzling whisky and smoking Marlboros while wires from a tinny walkman piped blues into my head. Through hours there were frequently spent howling inwardly about the melting ice floe of my marriage, this spate of hours was the highlight of my day.” Page 7Recovering alcoholics often say that there are only three possible outcomes of their addiction: You either end up locked-up, covered-up, or sober-up. Fortunately for American letters and herself, Karr sobered up.
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This was my first ebook and I liked the experience more than I though I would. I've read Karr's previous memoirs but didn't remember the details. As with the previous works, she writes from quite a distance from when these events took place. Ultimately, this is about Mary facing her life and her decisions, namely her drinking, her reasons and biology for drinking and her marriage. It's also about her ability to keep the artistic part of herself throught all the turmoil in her life. Religion figures heavily into her success with sobriety and life. My favorite parts were her descriptions of her relationship with her mother and my least favorite were the religious pieces.
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Non-celebrity memoir has become particularly hot during the last decade or so, and Mary Karr's first work in the genre, The Liars' Club (1995) was one of the books that helped start that fire. Poetic, moving, and both darkly humorous and horrifying in its depiction of her seriously screwed-up Texas childhood, Karr's story was compulsively readable. She continued it into adolescence in Cherry (2000), and brings her audience up to date in her most recent volume, Lit (2009), now out in paperback. I've read them all, and in my opinion, she saved the best for last.As she entered adulthood, Karr was well aware of her problematic past, and tried to get as far away from it as she could while letting it continue to pull her back in. Following an erratic path to a writing life, she found herself in some unlikely situations - poet laureate of Minneapolis - before landing in a New England graduate program and meeting the Ivy-League-educated, old-money poet she would eventually marry. Struggling with her own poetry and the challenges of a marriage of seeming unequals, her long habit of finding refuge in alcohol escalates, and motherhood complicates it more. Fighting the opposing pulls of addiction and sobriety eventually lands her in a mental institution, where she finally begins to accept that she needs to give the "higher power" her recovery supporters keep talking about a fair shot.Lit's basic arc is familiar - downward spiral, hitting bottom, finding one's way back up - but Karr's telling of the story is all her own. While a successful memoir needs a compelling story - and through all of hers, Karr certainly has one - it's her writing that has made her books stand out in the genre. It's clear from her prose that her background is in poetry, and while I'm not a poetry fan, I found myself noting and appreciating her craft. That craft is put to use in sharing a personal history that I couldn't identify with in all aspects - I've never been addicted to anything except books - but which was honest and revealing of thoughts and emotions that I could relate to. I think most mothers would recognize parts of Mary's descriptions of early motherhood; some of us have experienced marital difficulties not unlike hers and "Warren's"; and her reluctant, ambivalent approach to prayer and spirituality (even now) felt somewhat familiar to me. Karr is often hard on herself, and that was another thing I found familiar - and appealing.Karr retells enough from her earlier memoirs that it's not strictly necessary to read them before reading Lit. I have read them, but I don't recall a lot of their details, and I have to admit I read them, at least in part, because they were "everybody's talking about them" books. More universal than the earlier parts of her story, Lit's depiction of coming into adulthood, coming through darkness, and coming into peace is truthful and ultimately triumphant. This was the first of Karr's memoirs that I truly wanted to read for the story she was telling, and I think it's the one I'll remember best (and would consider reading again).
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Mary is the funniest authors I have ever heard speak. She had me close to falling off my chair at BookExpo 2009 in NYC. She reveals all of her warts and all and makes her ldevastating ove affair with alcohol hilarious in its hold on her life and all of its events. Her book has as nearly as much charm, wit and honesty as the real deal. I loved her book and now love her through her words.
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I love the double entendre that is this book's title, Lit. This third memoir from Karr (the first: Liars Club, the second: Cherry) picks up with Mary finally escaping Texas--but not the family alcoholism. With her characteristic unflinchingly honest prose that's nevertheless penned with a poetic beauty, she tells us about her education, the beginnings of her teaching career, her marriage, and becoming a mother, all under the influence of alcohol. She also takes us through what it took for her to get sober, her kicking and screaming deliverance into belief in a higher power, and the beginnings of her success as a poet and writer. It isn't an easy read--she's had more than her fair share of dark times--but it had no trouble keeping my attention. Don't worry if you haven't read her other two books--she fills in just enough detail from her early years to keep things coherent. This one is bound to be yet another of her books parked on the best seller lists for months.
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I make it a point to avoid any reviews of books that I am reading to review…but I can’t imagine that they don’t all say similar things about “Lit”. The words that come to mind are “brutally honest”…but that’s not quite right. Even though she recounts some truly horrifying events in her life, the effect isn’t brutal. I suppose “unflinchingly honest” is closer...but even that doesn’t capture the feeling of this book.Karr’s words just seem so human. She talks about such sad, hurtful and scary things in her life…and though I am lucky enough to not have much real life experience with those events, they are told in such a way that I am able to relate to her and feel real empathy towards her. She makes terrible mistakes in her life, and yet, I certainly don’t condemn her. It’s as if she’s laid herself out to the reader in such a way that one realizes that our forgiveness (while unnecessary) is far easier to earn than the forgiveness of her toughest enemy…herself.“It’s taken me so much effort just to do as medium-sh***y as I’ve heretofore done. Just to drop out of college, stay alive, and have my teeth taken care of.”Her words have an interesting effect…one can almost feel the Mary Karr experiencing the moment in the past – being watched over and commented on by the Mary Karr that exists in the present writing about that moment. There’s an essence of both women in the tone of the words, and both perspectives are heartfelt.“Touching that triangle of yellowed paper today is like sliding my hand into the glove of my seventeen-year-old hand. Through magic, there are the Iowa fields slipping by with all the wholesome prosperity they represent. And there is my mother, not yet born into the ziplock baggie of ash my sister sent me years ago with the frank message Mom ½ , written in laundry pen, since no one in our family ever stood on ceremony.”I felt a bit anxious as I read her story…like I was watching someone wander around on the freeway – I kept wanting to pull her away from the oncoming traffic and keep her safe; especially during the worst times.“I find myself squatting in the bedroom closet with two incongruent bottles, whiskey and Listerine – the latter with accompanying spit bowl. Despite the dark, it feels safe in here, leaning against the back wall with clothes before my face.”There’s such a ferocity to many of her feelings, you can’t help but root for her to find her way out of the dark. “And that’s it, that instant. My life as I’ve shaped it includes – for that instant only – the daddy I once loved more than beans and rice.”And there’s a beauty to her words as well, especially when she is talking about her son. “Maybe you could loan me some of the shine in your young head to clear up my leftover dark spaces. Just as you’re blameless for the scorched part of your childhood, I’m equally exonerated for my own mother’s nightmare.”Towards the end of the book, I began to realize there was more to the title of the book than the slang definition of the word. I began to see that Karr was going to be successful at fighting off the dark. That instead of searching for the answer at the bottom of a bottle, she might find it in the depths of her soul.This book is a triumph of words and of spirit. And even though it involves finding religion…there isn’t one preachy or false word about it. It’s again the humanity, the honesty of her words that make them ring true.To experience the story of a person who goes from this: “The warmth beaming from her face can’t reach me. I’m too bent over some rotted core, as if to protect it from her.”to this: “Such vast quiet holds me, and the me I’ve been so lifelong worried about shoring up just dissolves like ash in water. Just isn’t. In its place is this clean air. There’s a space at the bottom of an exhale, a little hitch between taking in and letting out that’s a perfect zero you can go into.”Lit…it’s a perfect title for this journey, fits both bookends of the story, and captures the true luminosity of Mary Karr’s words.
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Her first two memoirs are really my favorites, but this one is one of the best examples of her style. Even when she is discussing the worst parts of her adult life, Karr is poignant and clever. I like her immensely, and I can almost see myself in her son, Dev. There is an excellent circularity to this book; beginning with her letter to Dev as a mom and ending with her own mother. She went through a lot, and I applaud her ability to write it out and remain an entertaining writer.
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Did you ever get part way through a book and wonder-Should I just walk away from this and then all of a sudden you can't put it down? That's what happened with Lit by Mary Karr. It's the story of her life as an alcoholic, parent, wife, daughter, writer, etc. The beginning chapters seemed wrapped in pretension so deep that I found it difficult to wade through the words. While the words were beautifully placed on the page I became entangled in them to the point that the story was swept away in a literary rip tide. Then out of nowhere the water cleared and I found Mary and her story, and what a story she has to tell. How much can you blame your parents for? How much of the mistakes that you make do you have to own? Thought provoking and enlightening for those of us with dysfunctional lives, but written so beautifully we could only dream of being able to convey these thoughts with such beautiful prose.
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Lit By Mary Karr. Her third memoir, this book portrays the later years of Mary Karr's life. In detail she describes to her reader a childhood full of fear and isolation. Her adulthood leaned immediately toward the center of destruction. As her mother finally finds sobriety, she takes her place in a dangerous world of alcoholism (says the universe can only handle one drunk Karr at a time). Ms. Karr's memoir is real and honest and scary. She doesn't hold back at all to make a picture that is remotely pretty or happy. When she later is sober she searches for religion, god and some faith to hold onto. Ms. Karr's memoir is at times funny (believe it or not) her excellent writing is poetic and unique and her path is one that is taken everyday by many. It can be a depressing read as are most that deal with drugs, alcohol and abuse. She and her sister (seemingly her one and only rock and bright light through her life, bless her) set out to find normalcy, forgiveness and still deeply love their mother and father. While this can be a hard read, mystifying for some, too close to home for others, some books need to be read.
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This is the third memoir that Karr has written about her life. Since she has not been President or a great military general, we know she must describe her life in considerable detail in order to fill three books. We learn from this book that she's had a lot of experience telling her life's story and dredging through the depths of her feelings because she has spent considerable time doing both in counseling sessions with mental health therapists. A book based on this kind of material is not the sort of stuff that would normally interest me. However, this book has been praised by many reviewers as being the ultimate example of good memoir writing. So I wanted to see for myself, and yes I found her to be a good writer. The book kept my interest even though I may not be predisposed to appreciate this type of story.Her story recounts her painful journey to overcome her compulsion to consume alcohol. Before this victory is achieved the story is one of slow disintegration. One would think that once sobriety is achieved that everything would be better. But ironically, once she's free from liquor she experiences suicidal depression. A story such as this of an adult drinking their life into ruin and misery is not as satisfying as other memoirs where a talented young person overcomes the handicap of bad parents to become a successful adult (e.g. The Glass House, Angela's Ashes or perhaps Karr's first memoir, which I haven't read, Liars' Club). One thing I did appreciate about this book is that it comes about as close as is possible to explaining the motivations behind self-destructive behavior (but it's still irrational). However, I want to acknowledge, and I'm thankful, that she checked herself into a hospital prior to doing physical harm to herself when she felt driven to suicide. So the book can serve as a positive and inspirational guide to those suffering similar trials.One interesting thing about this book is that she spends considerable time debating with herself, as a confirmed atheist, about her seeking help from a "higher power" to overcoming her alcoholism. It's a dialog filled with humor, irony and pathos. (UNBELIEVERS BEWARE! This book may threaten your faith.)I have to admire her willingness to say some unflattering things about herself that, frankly, most of us wouldn't put into our own memoirs. She also refrains from bad-mouthing her ex's (hubby or boy-friends) which I presume she could have. She reflects enough on her childhood in this book to make it clear that it was a dozy. The irony is that if she had been spared from her horrible upbringing, she wouldn't have been able to write her best-selling memoir of her childhood, The Liars' Club. And if she didn't have ghosts from her past to conquer, she wouldn't have been able to write this book.So where does this title come from? From various reviews I have learned that it is a triple pun: lit as in literature, lit as in intoxicated, and lit as in spiritual enlightenment.
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Meh. About 1/2 way, and losing interest . . .

Really annoying that you can only "finish" a book. This one I abandoned.
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Lit is the third memoir by poet Mary Karr covering the dissolution of her marriage, her battle with alcoholism, recovery and conversion to Catholicism. It was well written and enjoyable to read, not as gut wrenching as some of the other getting sober books I've read like Dry by Augustan Burroughs and A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. I'm looking forward to reading Karr's two prior memoirs, The Liar's Club and Cherry.
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"At the end of my drinking, the kingdom I longed for, slaved for, and at the end of each day lunged at, was a rickety slab of unreal estate about four foot square - a back stair landing off my colonial outside Cambridge, Mass. I'd sit hunched against the door guzzling whiskey and smoking Marlboros while wires from a tinny walkman piped blues into my head. Though hours there were frequently spent howling inwardly about the melting ice floe of my marriage, this spate of hours was the highlight of my day...My sole link to reality was the hard plastic baby monitor. Should a cough or cry start, its signal light stabbed into my wide pupils like an ice pick."That's Mary Karr. With just a handful of words, she snatches you into the bleak world of her alcoholism, the images of the alcohol melting her icy marriage, washing her away, the only thing tethering her to the world her intense guilt over the damage she is doing to her son. She uses language like a poet, her images gripping yet subtle, darkly comic at times, gut-wrenching at others. I read her previous memoir, THE LIAR'S CLUB, a few years back; it's much funnier than LIT, but it does not have the humanity and vulnerability that illumines LIT.Perhaps that is due to the story itself. THE LIAR'S CLUB is the story of a younger, feistier Mary; LIT is the story of a mature woman, one who has finally confronted the demons that an earlier Mary merely mocked and taunted. The Mary Karr of LIT is a more disciplined, insightful, and spiritual woman; she can't help being funny, bless her, but this time her wit is not directed outward, to shore up bravado, but is instead self-deprecating and realistic, as if to say: "This is the flawed world I live in, and I too am flawed; but flaws are not what define me." I found the story of her fight with alcoholism often painful and bleak to read, but unlike her earlier memoirs, these dark times are lightened with her burgeoning spirituality and ultimate conversion. Her stories of the wisdom she found in her AA meetings are some of the most powerful in the book, and - does this sound naive? - I felt genuinely inspired by them. LIT reveals a much more open and vulnerable Mary ; this time I felt I actually got to know her, and I truly liked the person I was meeting.
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Brilliant and moving. Life-altering. Makes me want to write memoir, and I don't do memoir.
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Lit is a drunkalogue. If you know what that word means, you'll know what I mean. It's a tremendously well written drunkalogue, but a drunkalogue nonetheless.
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Reading Mary Karr’s latest memoir, "Lit," is akin to catching up with an old friend over a cup of coffee or, perhaps in this case, over something a bit stronger than coffee. Karr’s earlier memoirs, "The Liars’ Club" (1995), which covered her childhood years, and "Cherry" (2000), the story of her adolescence and early adulthood, established for her a well deserved reputation as an exceptional memoirist. Now, some nine years after "Cherry," Karr completes her story, for now, by revealing how she managed to overcome the odds to escape both the insular little town in which she grew up and the quirky upbringing she endured there.One thing is certain; Mary Karr has not had an easy time of it. Growing up in a muggy, mosquito ridden little East Texas refinery town, one in which its residents breathe polluted air no matter from which direction it blows (as I well remember), she was raped by a teenaged neighbor when she was eight years old. Her father, a heavy drinking refinery worker, loved her dearly but was not exactly a role model for his daughters. Her seven-times-married, artistic mother was a bit of a desperado in spirit who struggled with a tendency toward full-blown psychotic episodes throughout much of her life. As she so frankly details in "Lit," Mary Karr is a combination of the good and the bad components of both her parents. Always a bit of a rebel at heart like her mother, she went into the world resenting those born to wealth as much as her father disliked them, taking pride that she could at least outdrink those who “had been born on third base” but who believed “they hit a home run.” And outdrink them, Mary did - all the way to the point of her own debilitating struggle with alcoholism, a struggle that would steal years of her life and ultimately destroy the marriage that produced her son. It was a close thing, but Mary managed to save herself, and she accomplished it by doing something so completely out of character for her that it still surprises her. She turned to prayer and organized religion despite a lifetime spent scoffing at both. Despairing and suicidal, she committed herself to what she calls “The Mental Marriott” and the timeout there that would ultimately lead her to place her future in the hands of God, the possibility of whose existence she previously had not been able to take seriously. "Lit" is a word of several meanings when it comes to Mary Karr. It can be a reference to her success in the literary world or it can be used to describe the drunken state in which she spent so many of her waking hours for so many years. Finally, and most hopefully, it also describes the religious experience that saved Mary Karr’s life when she finally “saw the light.”Fans of Karr’s previous memoirs will be pleased with this inspirational addition to her story, but "Lit" also works well for those reading her for the first time, so well that I suspect the new Karr readers will now want to turn to the first two books. Rated at: 5.0
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I really disliked this book for the first half. I was constantly wondering why I was reading this and why someone felt she needed to write about it. Basically, I wondered, "who cares?" But towards the end, while the story didn't change, I started to like the story. It's not great. It's not really worth reading, but its not terrible. People who can relate to her struggle may enjoy it more.
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From My Blog...Lit by Mary Karr is her third memoir and the first book I have read by her. By all accounts, Karr had a brutal childhood, which shaped her teenage years as well as her adult years, the years focused on in Lit. Karr opens the book with a letter to her son in which she mentions this book is her way to try and explain to him how she ended up an alcoholic and how she found her way back out and is now the person she is. The short of it is an alcoholic mother who deals with divorce, raising a child, and reclaiming her life.By nature I adore memoirs and the glimpses into the lives of others, and the lessons to be learned from those that have gone before me. I really wanted to love Lit, but I did not, which is not to say Karr did not do a splendid job writing because she did. Her prose is close to perfect and in a laid back manner that makes the reader feel as though Karr is directly speaking to the reader. Karr fluidly goes through the years and her experiences, the good, bad, and downright ugly, sparing nothing, or so it appears, and at a rather fast clip. Karr’s rawness is most likely a trademark she uses in her memoirs, however not having read the other two, I cannot be certain on that account. Karr’s ability to write about her spiraling down to rock bottom, beginning shortly after her son was born must have taken an amazing feat of inner strength, not to mention her sharing her story with the world. I truly enjoyed all of Karr’s literary references (she even mentions my beloved Nabokov) and found Lit an interesting read, but I did not love it.I have been trying to pinpoint what exactly makes my opinion of Lit just average. Certainly it is not based on the writing style, nor the lack of information provided by Karr, for she has an abundance of information at times, to a point where I think some character development was lost. I simply found Lit to be a good book with a narrative I have heard before, different names, and circumstances to be sure, yet sadly an all too familiar tale. It is quite possible my opinion would change if I read the previous two books, The Liars’ Club and Cherry, which would give me the entire picture of Karr’s life, but I can only go with what I have in front of me, which is Lit. Would I recommend Lit? Certainly. Do I believe a lot can be gleamed from Karr’s life and others can learn from her experiences? Absolutely. I would strongly recommend reading the other reviews on the tour, as mine is just one opinion in a vast sea of opinions.
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A book that ends on a different note.. Those who have read her other best-selling previous memoirs: “Liars Poker” and “Cherry” will find many of the same characters, mother, sister, memories of her father. But this chapter of her life takes us beyond the Texas poor town where she was brought up into a completely different world, college in the upper Midwest, Cambridge, Syracuse, marriage and divorce, birth of a child, the vicissitudes of adult life with little money. All coupled with the trials of an addiction and mental disturbances. Told with the verve of an accomplished storyteller and the vocabulary of a poet. Both of which KarrIS
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This is the third of poet Mary Karr's memoirs, covering her college days through her success as a writer. Though in the first half of the book she seems whiny, that's the point. The book details her journey from bottomed-out alcoholic mom to AA supplicant trying to find her "higher power". She shops for a church to belong to, finally settling on Catholicism. Her trials include an irresponsible "taker" of a mother (also a recovering alcoholic), and a set of in-laws who, although they're among the most affluent families in America, are hard-wired for only coldness and frugality when it comes to aiding their proud, struggling poet son and his family. I don't want to suggest that this book is depressing. Far from it. Karr's native sense of humor never fails her even in her darkest moments. The final chapters are beautiful and inspiring, tempting even one such as myself, who has given up on faith in a higher power, to give it another go.
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Confession is one of the main tenets of Catholicism, and this memoir by Mary Karr seems to be both the confession and the penance she pays in her late conversion to Catholicism at the final third of the book.Is there such a thing as being too honest? Karr confesses to her lifelong addiction to alcohol, and all the ugly events that occurred during her life because of her alcoholism. She's brutally honest, which takes a ton of guts, because I really couldn't stand her as I read it. She wrote this as a form of atonement to her son for her years of poor mothering and distance. Essentially she had a tragic childhood filled with ugliness and pain. She longs to be a poet, to find a way to make magic with words and leave her mark on the world. But given that, she spends very little time discussing her actual development of poetry, instead she professes her love for the 'look' of poets: the starving artist, the tortured soul who is misunderstood and unappreciated, almost like she's reaching for the costume. It seems like she wants to join the poet's club rather than actually be a poet. Maybe her real gift is in this form of writing, the memoir. It's her third. She has no trouble with words in this respect. She writes well, in a witty, self-deprecating way. She doesn't ask for sympathy or pity, and in many ways that would be hard to give. Is it wrong to say she's selfish and rude, when she's gone so far to be this honest? Because that's the impression she gives. She does have her conversion at the end, which I found a little bit offputting, because again she seems to want to join a club rather than really feel a spiritual connection. And yet she points out the all people have a spiritual need, and I do agree with that. But her roller coaster ride with finding sobriety makes her unpleasant and irritating. No doubt some of it had to do with the alcohol. It's just very difficult to tolerate her reeling off stories of how often she drove drunk with her son in the car, how she avoided caring for her sick son, and how being alone with her child was boring and a chore. I don't get that, alcoholism or not. So many times she put him in danger, when she had the resources to get help and refused it. When counselors told her to count her blessings, she couldn't think of any: not the sweet little boy she had, nor the home, the loving husband, etc. When asked what she wanted in life, her answer was "more money". And while she complained about being judged unfairly, she was the most judgemental of all. It seems so out of touch. In all, it was a good read in terms of learning about alcoholism and the recovery process. There were a few gems of wisdom in it, as when a counselor told her if she worries she will be judged, she should ask herself 'what do you base that on?' If she admits it's her own imagination and worry, than it has to be dismissed. She's repeatedly told to stop imagining what people think of her, and to realize that everyone is worrying about their own problems, not hers. All her worries about not measuring up or fitting in, which she used alcohol to mask, had to go in order for her to not feel the need for the alcohol.I admire her candor, and respect her efforts to make amends. I don't agree with all her premises at the end, but I'm glad she got her life together.
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The third volume in Karr's series of memoirs covers her adulthood, her addictions, her marriage and motherhood and her eventual conversion to Christianity. Her sardonic powers of observation remain unscathed by any of this, thankfully. It's very raw and funny and well worth reading if you are a fan of her earlier works.
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Mary Karr’s Lit is magnificent. It completes her life story as began in The Liar’s Club and Cherry by detailing her marriage, motherhood, her battle with alcoholism and her rise as a literary talent. In this memoir Karr achieves a forceful honesty that holds nothing back in her self examination. Because she is a poet, one expects her writing to compel in story as much as language and will not be disappointed. Sometimes I felt as if I was actually experiencing Karr’s moments right beside her. Instead I felt lucky to be able to read a book that is certain to become a classic. And is sure to please faithful fans and transfix legions of new readers.
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Aiiieee. Okay, so I guess I can see how someone would take the "things start going well when I get sober" concept and decide, because prayer was keeping her sober, that god was giving her good things because she was asking for them, and not because she was finally not wasted every time she talked to a book agent. Especially if she is convinced she's the most important person in the world and so an omnipotent, all-powerful creator of the universe being deeply invested in her writing career makes sense in her head. I make a lot of allowances, in sobriety writing, because I believe that whatever gets you sober is good. Whatever works is good. But when Karr embraced not just a higher power, but Catholicism specifically and wholeheartedly, she lost me. Up to that point her concept of god is totally Quaker in nature - very personal, very present in the mundane and in nature -, and then she makes a jump to a religion that is the polar opposite, and she never addresses this. Certainly she never goes anywhere near the politics of the Catholic church. She is defensive about being religious without actually defending anything about her beliefs, which is an unpleasant combination. I also appreciated the completely unnecessary tirade Karr shares about how sober atheists are the angriest and meanest people you will ever meet. And how everyone Karr encounters asks her about her higher power, which if really happened means she was encountering people who shouldn't be in their line of work: if I was arriving suicidal at McLean, mentioned I'm an alcoholic, and the first question out of the counselor's mouth was, "Have you found your higher power yet?" my first priority would be finding another hospital and my second getting that person fired. Alternatively, this didn't actually happen but Karr says it did so she can tell stories of impressing everyone with her god connections. Yuck.
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I loved the Glass Castle and expected to like this more than I did. The writing wasn't as crisp, and the alcoholism and the God stuff just got tiresome after a while. Still, she's a better writer than most.
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Got about halfway through this book; put it in the "donate" pile. Realized I don't like the narrator, don't want to spend any more time with her. Life is too short.
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