Lit (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
Seven years in the making, Lit is the third of Mary Karr’s memoirs. The Liar’s Club (1995), her first, was principally about her childhood, and Cherry (2000) focused on Karr’s teenage years. In Lit, Karr attends college in the 1970’s, meets her future husband in graduate school, and becomes a mother while battling depression and alcoholism.
In the letter to her son that begins this memoir, Karr tells him, “Any way I tell this story is a lie” and asks him to forget that she is fifty to his twenty and that her brain is “dimmer” so that she can tell him the “whole tale” as she knows it. Karr describes how she hurt her son, not only by divorcing his father when he was five but also with the shouting and slamming doors that accompanied the end of her marriage. She expresses guilt for “vanishing” into the “madhouse” for a period and recounts her mother’s psychotic episode when she stood over Karr and her sister Lecia with a carving knife before she herself was taken away to the madhouse. When Karr asked her why she had done it, her mother said, “I just couldn’t imagine bringing two girls up in a world where they do such awful things to women. So I decided to kill you both, to spare you.” Karr explains to her son that she always tried to protect him from the “knife-wielding goddess of death” who had also set a pile of her children’s toys on fire.
Part 1 of the memoir begins...
(The entire section is 1986 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
Kirkus Reviews 77, no. 15 (August 1, 2009): 81.
Library Journal 134, no. 16 (October 1, 2009): 77.
Los Angeles Times, November 8, 2009, p. E8.
The New York Times, November 6, 2009, p. C25.
The New York Times Book Review, November 15, 2009, p. 12.
The New Yorker 85, no. 38 (November 23, 2009): 113.
Publishers Weekly 256, no. 31 (August 3, 2009): 36.
The Wall Street Journal, October 31, 2009, p. W5.
The Washington Post, November 10, 2009, p. C01.
(The entire section is 51 words.)