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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.

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. The Boston Globe calls Lit a book that "reminds us not only how compelling personal stories can be, but how, in the hands of a master, they can transmute into the highest art." The New York Times Book Review calls it "a master class on the art of the memoir" in its Top 10 Books of 2009 Citation. Michiko Kakutani calls it "a book that lassos you, hogties your emotions and won't let you go" in her New York Times review. And Susan Cheever states, simply, that Lit is "the best book about being a woman in America I have read in years." [full synopsis]

From Mary Karr comes this gorgeously written, often hilarious story of her tumultuous teens and sexual coming-of-age. Picking up where the bestselling The Liars' Club left off, Karr dashes down the trail of her teen years with customary sass, only to run up against the paralyzing self-doubt of a girl in bloom. Fleeing the thrills and terrors of adolescence, she clashes against authority in all its forms and hooks up with an unforgettable band of heads and bona-fide geniuses. Parts of Cherry will leave you gasping with laughter. Karr assembles a self from the smokiest beginnings, delivering a long- awaited sequel that is both "bawdy and wise" (San Francisco Chronicle).

When it was published in 1995, Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club took the world by storm and raised the art of the memoir to an entirely new level, as well as bringing about a dramatic revival of the form. Karr’s comic childhood in an east Texas oil town brings us characters as darkly hilarious as any of J. D. Salinger’s—a hard-drinking daddy, a sister who can talk down the sheriff at twelve, and an oft-married mother whose accumulated secrets threaten to destroy them all. Now with a new introduction that discusses her memoir’s impact on her family, this unsentimental and profoundly moving account of an apocalyptic childhood is as “funny, lively, and un-put-downable” (USA Today) today as it ever was.

Mary Karr describes herself as a black-belt sinner, and this -- her fourth collection of poems --traces her improbable journey from the inferno of a tormented childhood into a resolutely irreverent Catholicism. Not since Saint Augustine wrote "Give me chastity, Lord -- but not yet!" has anyone brought such smart-assed hilarity to a conversion story. Karr's battle is grounded in common loss (a bitter romance, friends' deaths, a teenage son's leaving home) as well as in elegies for a complicated mother. The poems disarm with the arresting humor familiar to readers of her memoirs, The Liars' Club and Cherry. An illuminating cycle of spiritual poems have roots in Karr's eight-month tutelage in Jesuit prayer practice, and as an afterword, her celebrated essay on faith weaves the tale of how the language of poetry, which relieved her suffering so young, eventually became the language of prayer. Those of us who fret that poetry denies consolation will find clear-eyed joy in this collection.

Viper Rum is Mary Karr's first book since The Liars' Club, which helped to spark a renaissance in memoir. That breathtaking autobiography about her Texas childhood rode The New York Times bestseller list for more than sixty weeks. It was hailed by The Washington Post as "the essential American story, a beauty." Critic James Atlas likened her to Faulkner. No book by a New Directions author since Nabokov's Lolita has created such a stir. Molly Ivins remarked in The Nation, "[The Liars' Club] is so good I thought about sending it out for a second opinion.... To have a poet's precision of language and a poet's insight into people applied to one of the roughest, toughest, ugliest places in America is an astonishing gift." Now that gift returns to its origins in poetry. Viper Rum delves into the autobiographical subject matter of her two early collections (The Devil's Tour, New Directions, 1994, and Abacus, Wesleyan, 1987)... [full synopsis]

"This is a book of poems about standing in the dark, about trying to memorize the bad news. The tour is a tour of the skull. I am thinking of Satan in Paradise Lost: 'The mind is its own place and it can make a hell of heav'n or a heav'n of hell...I myself am hell.'"

Described admiringly as "a scrappy little beast" in Salon magazine in 1997, Karr is a controversial figure in the American poetry "establishment," thanks to her Pushcart-award winning essay, "Against Decoration." She's gained wider acclaim for her award-winning The Liar's Club. Abacus, her first book, which has been out of print for nearly twenty years, is again available in the Carnegie Mellon Classic Contemporaries Series.