I have been an avid reader of Mary Karr’s work for almost twenty years so I was very excited when this book was released. I have to say she has spoiled me for beautiful memoirs. She is a master of the craft and this book is a present she has wrapped up and given to her readers – and to all readers who love memoir.
The Art of Memoir is also a treasure trove of invaluable information for any writer, but as a reader, I felt like I’d just crashed the private party of every memoirist’s secret place. AOM made me feel privy to insider secrets and my appreciation of the genre went even deeper. She delves into her favorite memorists’ efforts and explains what she thought worked and what didn’t work and why. She speaks to writers and tells them to keep their focus on their readers and to try to craft beautiful, carnal pictures/events so that readers might want to re-read their memoir (to Karr, therein lies the beauty of great memoir: re-reading). I appreciate any author who takes care to deliver to his/her readers a beautiful reading experience and clearly, Karr does.
Mary even puts her own writing under the microscope and examines her life/life’s work full throttle and you get a front row seat to see how her writer-mind ferrets out her own truth and how she arrives at said truth with such beauty on the page (revise, revise, revise!). She speaks about her own fear of failure when she is writing, which gives readers a glimpse into the writing process we readers think just magically appears on the page.
If you are already a reader of Karr’s works, know that AOM is like getting a “Behind the Scenes” at the end of your favorite movie. For me, she answered twenty plus years’ worth of questions I had about her three memoirs and it was, truly, magical. If you’ve ever wished you could attend one of her classes at Syracuse, you now have it in your hands! If this is your first Karr read, you have some catching up to do. Lucky you! (She also writes spectacular poetry!)
Here’s a video clip about The Art of Memoir: