“Karr, a professor of literature at Syracuse University and the author of three memoirs, provides readers and writers with background, insights, hints, history, and humor related to both her own writing and that of other memoirists, past and present. The book is valuable not only to those who aspire to document portions of their own lives, but also to those who find the genre of memoir of interest for casual reading.”
— Susan P. (W), The Book Shoppe, Inc., Boone, IA
Bestselling author and renowned professor Mary Karr offers a master class in the essential elements of great memoir—delivered with her signature wit, insight, and candor.
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 teaching prizes at Syracuse. (The writing program there produced such acclaimed 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.
About the Author
Mary Karr is the author of three award-winning, bestselling memoirs: The Liars’ Club, Cherry, and Lit, as well as The Art of Memoir, also a New York Times bestseller. She received Guggenheim and Radcliffe Fellowships for poetry and is the Peck Professor of Literature at Syracuse University.
“Karr is a national treasure—that rare genius who’s also a brilliant teacher. This joyful celebration of memoir packs transcendent insights with trademark hilarity. Anyone yearning to write will be inspired, and anyone passionate to live an examined life will fall in love with language and literature all over again. ” — George Saunders
“Could have been called ‘The Art of Living.’” — San Francisco Chronicle
“Mary Karr has written another astonishingly perceptive, wildly entertaining, and profoundly honest book-funny, fascinating, necessary. The Art of Memoir will be the definitive book on reading and writing memoir for years to come.” — Cheryl Strayed
“Should be required reading for anyone attempting to write a memoir, but anyone who loves literature will enjoy it too.” — Wall Street Journal
“Terrific and deliciously readable guide.” — Entertainment Weekly, “Must List”
“Full of Karr’s usual wit, compassion and, perhaps most reassuringly, self-doubt. Her fans should be delighted—and they can’t go wrong reading the books she discusses, including her own.” — Washington Post
“From a contemporary luminary of the form, Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir examines our enduring drive to make memory speak and to ‘wring some truth from this godawful mess of a single life.’” — Vogue
“The Art of Memoir is passionate and irreverent-and reminds us why we love a good memoir.” — Elle
“Mary Karr strikes a vein in The Art of Memoir.” — Vanity Fair
“Karr is such fun to read-who else would combine the name Nabokov and the phrase “out the wazoo” on her very first page?” — New Yorker
“Engaging.” — Chicago Tribune
“A veritable blueprint for the genre…. Lovers of the form and aspiring scribblers alike will relish this comprehensive appreciation of and guide to ‘writing the real self.’” — O: The Oprah Magazine
“With a trio of notable memoirs (”The Liars’ Club,” “Cherry,” and “Lit”), Mary Karr is exquisitely qualified to write this book, a kind of compendium of advice, warning, and deep insight into what makes a personal history stick in a reader’s mind.” — Boston Globe
“Karr really is an artist. The Art of Memoir attests to how hard she works at getting her words just right and how deeply she understands the way great writing works.” — Slate
“Whip-smart.” — Philadelphia Inquirer
“As useful for those of us who want to be better friends and lovers as it is for those of us who want to pen our life story.” — More
“A master class on memoir, from a memoirist who pulls no punches.” — Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Lots of practical advice, a great reading list, examples you can bite into.” — Houston Chronicle
“Karr’s own voice is consistent and authentic, as vivid, down-home, smart, profane and self-deprecating as it is in her own memoirs.” — St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“A celebration of the creative life.” — Austin American-Statesman
“Enlightening….Fresh and heartfelt….Instructs and inspires through example and a love for the art of memoir.” — Library Journal, starred review
“Karr write[s] exquisitely…and without pretense, often with raw authenticity….a must-read.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Snappy and witty, humorous just when it needs to be, yet plainspoken in the best way.” — Shelf Awareness
“Karr’s sassy Texas wit and her down-to-earth observations about both the memoir form and how to approach it combine to make for lively and inspiring reading. A generous and singularly insightful examination of memoir.” — Kirkus