Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Art of Memoir


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Today's nonfiction post is on The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr. It is 256 pages long and is published by HarperCollins. The cover is white with the title in red and black. The intended reader is someone who wants to learn more about writing memoirs and writing in general. There is descriptions of sex, violence, and lots of language in this book. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

From the jacket- 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 graduate teaching prizes for her highly selective seminar at Syracuse, where she mentored such future hit 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.


Review- When Karr is writing about writing I really liked this book but when she moves to everything else in this book it gets really boring. I do understand wanting to examine the works of other writers and what they do right. But that is about 75% of the book and it gets really boring. Karr does give some good writing exercises but those are few and far between. It was hard to not skim large parts of this book. I did enjoy when Karr was talking about the struggles with what to write, how accurate her memory is, and dealing with the real people that she is writing about.

I give this book a Two out of Five stars.  I was given this book by HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.