[Read] ➬ Lit Author Mary Karr – Sharkmotorcyclehelmets.co.uk
05 November 2018
The experience of reading this book is one of being swept so effectively into someone else s experience that I have to give it a five Pick it up, lie down on the couch, and if you ve ever been an aspiring writer, a member of a psychotic family, a lover of poetry or even just an avid reader, you ll be as absorbed as ever you were in Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, Jane Eyre East Texas girl overcomes horrific childhood but has to kick her alcoholism to become best selling memoirist is just as gripping as Jane finding love but needing to overcome Rochester s bigamous impulses, or Anne finding a home in Prince Edward Island once she starts getting a grip on her habit of living only in daydreams.Karr delivers us what we want the most a tale of upward mobility and material success that is also the tale of moral reform Little Mary had the discipline to live through a psychotic mother, stop drinking and trust God, thus she is now a wealthy author living in Manhattan I confess to having eaten up every last spoonful But I wonder Can a narrative of spiritual reform also be a narrative of material success I haven t got the slightest doubt that Karr experienced a real spiritual reform She tells the story of her drunkenness without a trace of defensiveness or self excuse She struggles to forgive her mother, and if the tone of all three of her books can be believed, she succeeds After reading all three memoirs, I have trouble forgiving her mother She was a dangerous and impossible woman Reading Karr s memoirs makes me humble, makes me want to try to be a better forgiving person myself It s just that the logic of I started to pray, and then God gave me a fellowship And a book contract And a best seller is very far from the life stories of saints and mystics from whom Karr draws her own spirituality Those biographies usually go I started to pray and then God asked me to give up all my worldly wealth, and now the church has set the Spanish Inquisition after me Karr may be a reluctant Catholic, but this memoir is aligned with the Protestant tradition of a Christianity of prosperity.Still, the book is lusciously written, engaging, and offers the hope that we can all become, with a little bit of grace, better selves, while keeping our senses of humor It is a book worth reading. Karr s hard edged poetic voice made The Liars Club one of my favorite books In Lit, the voice is just as searing and lovely but perhaps not as consistent The childhood digressions nods to her previous works were the weakest portions of the narrative, but they were brief over, they were easily forgiven when bookmarking transcendent scenes such as one in which a group of illiterate women remind the author of the universality of good poetry I highly recommend this book to all readers, but notably writers and anyone consumed by art This is a book for writers and artists, from a poet known for her prose. Es Posible Re Rse A Carcajadas Mientras Lees Un Libro Que Trata Sobre El Amor, El Alcoholismo, La Depresi N, El Matrimonio, La Maternidad Y Dios Por Supuesto Iluminada Es Un Buen Ejemplo, El Mejor Ejemplo Pocas Memorias Con El Ritmo De Una Gran Novela Est N A La Altura De Estas P Ginas La Joven Que Pas Su Dura Infancia En Texas, En El Seno De Una Familia Mucho M S Que Peculiar , Vive Durante Su Primera Madurez Un Infierno Del Que Quiz S Lo Puedan Salvarla, Adem S De La Literatura Y La Fe, La Ayuda De Otros Que Pasaron Antes Por Lo Mismo Que Ella Sin Olvidar El Amor Por Su Hijo, Algo Que La Inunda Al Mismo Tiempo Que La Confunde, Como A Tant Simas Madres Iluminada Est Escrito Con La Implacable Honestidad De Mary Karr, Que Se Analiza A S Misma Sin Escr Pulos Y Con Un Humor Irreverente Y Nos Habla De Ello Sin Pelos En La Lengua, Sin Sentido Del Rid Culo, Y Con Una Prosa Visceral Que Tiene Un Grand Simo Poder De Seducci N Iluminada Es Un Libro Apasionante E Inclasificable Sobre C Mo Crecer Y C Mo Encontrar Nuestro Lugar En El Mundo Hay En L Pasajes Divertid Simos Y Pasajes Estremecedores, Pura Vida Iluminada Por La Literatura, Iluminada Por Lo Espiritual, Iluminada Es Decir, Intoxicada Hasta Perder La Noci N De Realidad Por El Alcohol La Pena Y El Sacrificio Se Convierten En Humor Y Promesa De Futuro Karr Demuestra En Cada P Gina Que Est En Verdad Comprometida Con La Literatura Como Una Forma De Arte No S Lo Conmovedora, Sino Tambi N Motivadora, Liberadora Si Hay Un Libro Que Pueda Ayudarnos A Comprender Qu Fuimos, Qu Somos Y Qu Seremos Antes Y Despu S De Atravesar Alg N Desierto Es Ste, Emocionante Como Una Resurrecci N Who is Mary Karr A memoirist this is her third She is now 57 years old She is a professor of literature at Syracuse University She is a published poet She is a single mother She is famous given credit for the huge increase in the popularity of the memoir as reader fodder and consequently rich, presumably a 1%er She is a free willing Catholic and a practicing alcoholic in recovery In other words Believes strongly in the power of God prayers, and sober and attends AA meetings She is white, petite, attractive, intelligent, and educated But I still don t know who she is Which, to me, is the take away from Lit After reading Lit, I think I have a better understanding of who Mitt Romney is than I do Mary Karr and Romney, a current candidate for US president, is not even ever mentioned in the book However, his type is Karr was married to a man who is described like the man Romney exhibits boring, rigid, structured, proper, competent born into wealth and seemingly void of personality which Karr isn t I, as reader, get glimpses of her personality open, funny, angry, sad, and mostly unstable and unsure, i.e., a typical poet A poet who got lucky and turned her misfortune neglectful parents parenting child sexual assault victim into gold, and then attributes that to the hand of God and the program Alcohol Anonymous which, to me, adds another component to her personality that of weakness, or very low self control In other words, a typical addict The interesting question to me, which she doesn t get into, is why her and not her sister Karr takes the easy way out the hand of God is what is going on here on earth God s plan, etc and so on, and you I, anyone is powerless i r t control over our Self and our behavior Our only recourse is submission to God via prayer Without God and prayer we are all doomed This bothers me.Mary Karr, in her own words, became a serious alcoholic and pretty much used the fog of alcoholic stupor as a coping mechanism for what was a rotten life devoid of love and affection but was able to use her good looks and intelligence to pretty much get whatever she thought she wanted but, and also, lacked any real communicative skills of intimacy and self regard to get what she really wanted and lacked love self worth Not unlike many of us Karr was is still a victim of her being neglected in childhood by an alcoholic mother and a dim dull father Which is not all that uncommon throughout the history of humans, regardless of which parent is the dimwit and who is the alcoholic Sans a good enough beginning having your basic needs met, including the emotional and psychological a person s health and well being suffer, and consequently other people and things you interact with will also suffer Money can make things easier eg Karr s husband Romney but money doesn t necessarily make for a well adjusted human who, at the least, does no harm This all three of Karr s books is THAT story What bothers me is that Karr still doesn t get it and hides behind poetry, albeit good and entertaining poetry She abuses metaphor.For example Like two shots from a nail gun.Like a rattler under a rock.Like a shot bird.Like flower to sunbeam.Like a prisoner.Like a squeezed rubber doll.Like fence pickets.Like linked hot dogs.Like a black box over the eyes of a porn star.Like he d bring up a wart or goiter I ve secretly taken off.Like a burglar with the house silver.Like playing cards spread against the slate sky.Like he s been stabbed.Like a circus diver into a bucket of water.Like a horn trying to break through.Like a sick calf to be liberated from the cart.Like he s being abducted.Like a rabbit through chicken wire.Like a nuclear blast.Like a maggot.Like four legged beasts reared back.Like smoke siphoned up with a hose.Like a bird on a wire.Like bullets from a Kelvar vest.ENOUGH I don t want to know WHAT IT is LIKE I want to know what she thinks and feels who she is and why she does what she does She avoids any real introspection and reflection and inquiry the things I want to know.I was married to an alcoholic, not unlike Karr as she describes the behavior at its worst I was young and uneducated at the time and I divorced the girl and, even with all the current technology, have not been able to find her Last I saw her she was eight months pregnant not by me , said she had quit drinking, and said she was happy That was 34 years ago I am a huge aficionado of David Foster Wallace, a writer, genius, and former lover of Karr s, who killed himself before Lit was published Karr writes about their relationship a little They spent time together in AA and a half way house that Wallace writes extensively about in Infinite Jest I want to know what Karr thinks and feels about him and THAT Here s how she refers to Wallace Some kind of genius, David.Bandana ed David.Big footed David.Uber logical David.Philosohy David.Ponytailed David.Prodigy like David.Then they have a fight and he leaves and that s the last we readers hear of him, from her Surely she read Infinite Jest Its influence on her writing is apparent, but she says nothing Surely she knew he hung himself, but she says nothing Okay but she does tell about the fate subsequent deaths of two other, only incidental, recovery friends Seems to me she really is crazy Lit is like a submarine sandwich without any meat lots of tasty bread, vegetables, flavor and spice but no meat Karr says she s going to write a how to book about memoir After all she s famous and rich for her efforts I, like Mary Karr, teach people about writing and I assure you this If Karr were in my class I d allow her to write however she wanted, I d encourage her to find her voice, but I d also challenge her as to what exactly she was trying to say to speak clearly Prose and poetry are not the same I d suggest she forget about God and her mother and her son and money and fame I d suggest to Mary Karr she get a dog, or a cat and tell them the story And to maybe even have a drink Who is Marry Karr Answer An angry and funny woman All her prayer and fame and money hasn t dealt with how angry she is To be fair, neither has all the shrinking she s had She s made a fortune writing about her abuse and neglect Prayers answered, she asserts I see her explanation as one of many possible ones, and one that does not really do much for her or anybody else, except those who profit from it established institutions She still has all that anger inside her which erupts from time to time and which could be seen as really, really funny and turned into a fantastically, hilarious, stand up comedic routine eg The train scene Or a great novel It could be that Wallace wrote Infinite Jest to seduce her Her mother could have been a victim of past life bleed through See my essay Reincarnation Who knows What if she had done something different than she did i r t her relationship with Wallace What might we be reading today What if they had worked things out But what do we get God s plan and prayer Here s a thought Child neglect and the sexual abuse of a child is a really, really bad thing that some children don t get over And I m not buying it as part of God s plan, or the Devil s work, and that the only remedy is to be saved via God s love No matter how well Karr can write that s a vague and weak story. it s entirely impossible to give this book less than five stars because it s an obvious masterpiece of narrative, heart, and language unlike other memoirists who put it all out there, though, mary karr doesn t scrape the bottom of the barrel and come up with the miserable, putrescent dregs that caused her to be so miserable and, also, to drink two different predicaments, though i suppose the latter cannot happen without the former she talks many times, pretty much from beginning to end, about being a sort of lifetime therapy goer, but what she and her therapists talk about she doesn t tell us maybe it s all in her previous books, but that would seem unfair this is very funny book mary karr is just hilarious this may grate on people it didn t grate on me but you have to tell the truth you have to give us than i became an alcoholic and i stopped being an alcoholic look, this is not a shallow book, but i never quite got what terrible pain had taken hold of mary karr that wasn t willing to let up its rusty jaws it clearly had to do with her childhood, but in this book we get an absent and eventually forgiven mother and a much beloved if idiosyncratic father i can imagine that, having gone through the torture of recounting her childhood in two other books, karr may not want to do it again here i get that but that doesn t do much to make me feel satisfied i know she is in pain but i don t feel the pain i don t understand the pain i feel we are not told about the pain not that telling about one s pain is easy but if you want a good memoir you have to get to the bleeding dregs, otherwise you are going to wow but not entirely satisfy readers like me the second part, karr s tussle with god and her final finding of a good relationship with him, grabbed me by the throat, not in a good way i just could not read these parts without seeing myself in three particular occasions i won t mention here, praying to god within an inch of my life and getting silence back i felt rageful beyond tolerance i am still a believer like karr, a catholic and practice my faith the best i can, but i think i ve been spitting mad at god for a good 10 years at least, and while this book made me see this rage for the first time a very good thing , it did nothing to give me reasons to seek reconciliation one must, of course, see the hand of someone loving and attentive in the good things that happen to one, especially if one has prayed for them you can t pray for things then claim the deity you prayed to had nothing to do with them once you get them but as i read about all the little and big signs of god s love that came to karr, i couldn t help thinking of all the nothings i have felt from god in a good long while and then i felt guilty maybe i don t pray enough i don t maybe i don t pray the right way maybe i should pray pray pray there is a lot in this book about prayer but i don t want the books i read to make me feel guilty i stopped praying for things because i kept getting fresh cow patties in the face so fuck this shit, mary karr i m going to keep on living my faith the way i can, right now, as a spitting mad and disappointed believer lover, and i m going to think of you as being enlightened and advanced on the spiritual journey than i i tried, mary karr i really tried if people are better at giving it all up to god than i, then good for them i can t not now. Note I read this for a book club Not my choice I do like memoirs, just not this sort.Mary Karr Lit fans are a fiercely loyal group And super intolerant of anyone who doesn t love her sort of memoir I get it Oy veh Can we all just move on Not going to reiterate any the above two points in my comments section.Original comments review below Reading this for my book club.O.M.G.If there is a genre I hate, it is that of addicts telling their life stories yes, even when they come out Christian at the other end Just like a bad movie made for Christian purposes, an angsty book told for Christian purposes does nothing for me First give me good art story I say, then worry about what else is in it.It isn t that I don t have sympathy for the people themselves, it is that their books inevitably seem to be all about them me, me, me angst and self loathing then repeat.I know, this makes me sound harsh But there you have it.The only thing worse than that Tell it in stream of consciousness which around our house, we call lazy writer s syndrome.Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to Lit.So yes I have a very bad attitude going in and after reading the first four pages I was consciously reminding myself that some book club members read 400 pages of Assam Darjeeling who never have read fantasy before.Therefore, I manned up and soldiered on For another four pages I didn t want to actually weep aloud so I stopped reading.And then I recalled one book club member who skimmed Assam Darjeeling in 20 minutes and kept insisting that she d read the book but she had so many other books she was reading that she didn t have time to properly sit down with this one.Right.But ok, everyone loves her and we have good manners unlike this commentary, I realize and so we politely agreed to her fiction.Which opened the gate for me to do the same Almost.I managed to page through and find where Karr actually goes to her knees to pray and gets a bit of response and will pick up skimming from there Although the next meeting isn t for a few weeks So there s no need to actually rush into this or anything yes, I also enjoy procrastinating in my spare time UPDATEFull disclosure I haven t read the first 200 250 pages It is just that is the spot from which I am taking the plunge As quick a plunge as possible The book club is Monday so I ve got to begin skimming now FINALI must say that I enjoyed the last part of the book fairly well It didn t make me want to go back and read the beginning of it, but I have rarely read a better description of one s interaction with God than the last part of the book So in the end, I am glad that I read the bit that I did I ll be curious to see how everyone else liked it. A big messy book with a lot of good things and a lot of annoying things Karr overwrites with a vengeance, throwing 2 metaphors into one sentence when none would have been a lot better There s a this is me warts and all stream of consciousness thing that she does that is apparently engaging for a lot of readers, but I tended to find her on the narcissistic side Somewhere in this 400 page monster is a great 200 page memoir dying to shed some poundage.What I did like about the book was her honesty about her struggle to deal with God as a necessary entity in her recovery, and that her struggle had a positive outcome After all the legalistic and sour atheism at the top of best seller lists, it was nice to read about someone talking about prayer and belief in a non disparaging way Karr does do an annoying thing where she almost continually apologizes for her belief and for praying, but I realize I do the same thing myself, so I learned something as well. Warning, craft review Karr employs or deploys a number of craft strategies and techniques that I examined in order to rip off for my own writing I whittled down the many to these few Prologues as context, anchoring and or launching points for both writer and reader, and how the prologues determine the economy of explanation throughout the book Management of present and past self narrators, for story, for suspense, and other effects Cognitive entry points the deft turns of phrase Karr uses to access or to seem to access and thereby weave in memory Use of parenthetical statements as a device for interrogating her own memory, calling bull shit on herself, and or adding another layer of subjectivity With the prologues, we encounter an open letter to Karr s son, which answers the vital narrator questions outlined by writer David Mura in a presentation I attended at the Stonecoast Residency Who To Whom When Why The reader is immediately oriented Perhaps just as important, these prologues also locate the writer provide her with narrative marching orders If she should forget, Karr s prologue can remind her of who is telling the story, to whom, when, and why And as writers, we do forget we get bogged down in minutiae or umpteen other concerns and forget the larger shape of our stories In the first prologue, SIDE A NOW, Karr launches the I into a place of intimacy, closeness, truth no bullshit , tenderness, and regret she s writing to her son, and as a result, the narrator s calibrations are finely tuned in the way that only family can hear them fully And yet, the reader is not left outside because Karr knows that, as Joyce observed, the universal is rendered in the particular, or in this case, a universal pain is rendered in Karr s idiosyncratic voice Texas shit kicker cum Harvard poet We are invited eavesdroppers Contextualizing the book in this way as letter to son also forces Karr to write from a place of love and tenderness It forces a level of honesty beyond Karr s obvious honesty and snarkiness into emotional honesty that isn t clever or well spoken It is in these moments when I stop marveling at the writer and take in the human being for example, while visiting the sober house, the narrator finds herself confessing deep, clich d fears For some reason, my eyes well up, and I find myself saying to women I just met, I m afraid I m not a good mom 242 Writing the prologue to her son keeps the narrator accountable to this level of emotional honesty At a minimum, it keeps the bar high.Also clarified by the prologue is the economy of explanation The audience for the prologue is an intimate, and someone to whom she is making amends I don t know if anyone ever asked Karr if she thinks of Lit as a 9th step of sorts, but I d be interested to hear her answer Answering the narrative questions serve to clarify the story This is a story of redemption and self definition from mother to son, and why and how the mother tells it, is to free them both If ever Karr got unclear about who, what, when, to whom, and why, she could just look at this line, which I see as the underpinning refrain of the book Maybe by telling you my story, you can better tell yours, which is the only way to get home, by which I mean to get free of us 6 Of course the book is her own journey to get free of her family story, of her own alcoholism to get home I think all writing is about going home we go deeper inward to bring truth outward.I admired, too, the way Karr seamlessly threaded both her present and past narrative selves whether with a sentence or a paragraph, or sometimes just a phrase She makes such a transition at the end of the second chapter, right after her so called college interview in which being fondled is the price of admission We are in that scene, and then we are out, with a spry witted turn With his trembling and sweaty hand, he cupped first one breast, then the other, saying, By God, they re real Such was the interview that landed me in a school far beyond my meager qualifications 32 Seemingly all at once, we are firmly in the past moment, then we are looking back on it, and then even looking forward from it.When she first meets Walt, Karr manages well the tension that can be exploited with narrator The past narrative self doesn t know that he s a good guy, but the present narrating self does My department collects strays, he said Stop by my office tonight We ll see what we can find But during the day, the prospect slid back and forth like a BB Why did he want to see me at night Leaving my library job, I faced sparse snow on the ground, scraped at by winds like straight razors 37 What menacing But Walt proves harmless Karr manipulates this tension frequently, and by quick turns, so as to keep the energy of the story up without seeming like a predatory narrator.Another example and one of my favorites comes when she and some other drunks are car pooling to an outside meeting and she suspects the driver is drunk This is known as a commitment in and around Boston, meaning the group is committing itself to serve another group, but when I first heard it, I immediately thought commitment, as in to be committed to a nuthouse She captures AA so wonderfully, with such humor and depth and reverence, I want to read it through once just for that As she steps into the car, her present narrating self smells juniper, a hallmark of gin, but she talks herself out of her instincts Fumblingly, he lights a cigarette, and the present narrating self declares, This, I think, is as drunk a motherfucker as I ve ever seen, fixing to steer the car I m in As a kid, I was trained to give the shitfaced room 230 They end up driving to the meeting hall, with the reader still in suspense the reveal comes a few pages later the narrator was right when they find the drunk motherfucker passed out under a tree.I ll make my last two observations quickly, but I want to note them at least Karr maneuvers her thinking with either physical objects or with cognition itself as a tangible object, wherein she holds the thing or thought in her hand, her mind, her gaze, and uses it as a Chutes and Ladders esque entry point into some other thought, memory, scene, or image Right off, in the prologue, she regards a videotape while thinking of her son s leaving So after you d gone, I played it maybe for the first time all the way through It s a summer afternoon in a yellow kitchen we ve yet to remodel She drops us right into the scene She does it again in the next prologue by using the red camera eye as an entry point She uses a triangle of a book page Lorca a bit later on, as a vehicle for thought, for movement into memory It s a device of Nabokov s, his inimitable madeleine cookie moment from Speak, Memory, and Karr uses it just as expertly, as a mode of transporting the reader and as a pivot point for reflection.Finally, I admired how Karr used a parenthetical third narrator I have been attempting this, without being fully conscious of it in my own work, particularly in managing information I learn later from third parties or from court documents It adds so much depth to Karr s already rich voice, and it did so leanly in these seeming asides But the asides by virtue of their repetition begin to take on weight, and because their function changes from true aside to longer note, they begin to seem like highlighted grafts of language They begin to function as another lens of subjectivity, which ultimately makes her narrator all the reliable One striking example comes as Karr sits prostrate before a toilet bowl, having just checked herself into the bin It s characteristic Karr to be self conscious about such a moment, and she is, and further she acknowledges this self consciousness on the page, in a sort of screenplay aside that appears in parentheses Vis vis God speaking to me, I don t mean the voice of Charlton Heston playing Moses booming from on high, but reversals of attitude so contrary to my typical thoughts so solidly true as to seem divinely external And quiet these thoughts are, strong and quiet View it as some sane self or healthy ego taking charge, if you like By checking in to the hospital, I ve said in some deep way uncle, or as they said in my old neighborhood calf rope, referring to an animal hogtied in a rodeo arena I ve stopped figuring so hard and begun to wait, sometimes with increasing hope, to be shown 276. On its funniest and its most harrowing pages, Mary Karr s Lit reminds me of Augusten Burroughs s Dry both sarcastic, heartbroken protagonists are helplessly addicted to alcohol, romantically incapacitated, and surrounded by saccharine morons In moron land, Karr escapes mental institution bureaucracy in time to attend a literary reception in her honor by using guile The institute s Nurse Ratchett has a tendency to bring up penis envy every session, and I swear that this time, when she does, I ll confess to my intense longing for a dick of my own, for in most places that pretend to value honesty, I ve usually found that sucking up is an underrated virtue given how well it works Both Karr and Burroughs start going to AA meetings with anthropological distance They resist and mock the moist eyed AA hand holders, but both eventually give in For me, maybe because I finished the book on a spring day in the Cherry Esplanade of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Lit is about softening softening to God, to the present moment, to Love, to Whatever It Is As cherry blossoms fell around me, as children knocked over empty garbage cans, as subscribing members of the garden perused an exclusive sale under a white tent, I felt a perfect softening My eyes left the last page I pressed some of the pink blossoms into the book before heading to class.Seven days after I finished Lit, I checked out some plays from the Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center It was breezy and blue out, so I decided to walk to school, twenty three blocks south An old, big church on 59th Street was covered in scaffolding A flyer under the scaffolding caught my eye On the second floor of the church s parish center, in twenty four hours, Mary Karr would be giving a talk for a priest s radio show I went The thirty chairs were mostly filled by the time the event started, but attendance was by no means generous I sat in the front row She talked about her very down to earth relationship with prayer, with church doctrine, and with love I asked the only secular question of the evening could she speak to her state when she sits down to write My state when I m writing Terror Uh, constant disappointment and self loathing Mixed with, uh, yeah, dread A lot of dread That s my state Maybe one other question At the book signing, I told her about accidentally seeing the flyer God is calling you, she said with mock import Neither of us seemed like we belonged in a church, but here we were She said to me, It s an interesting conversation we re all having. Few writers can live up to the verve of a triple pun title lit as in literature, lit as in intoxicated, and lit as in spiritual enlightenment, all three of which are seamlessly blended together in Karr s characteristically wildly exuberant, utterly compelling, and shrewdly observant prose She has a wonderful love of the epigram, which I admire greatly being a lover of epigrams myself My favorite thusfar They are passing, posthaste, posthaste, the gliding years to use a soul rending Horatian inflection The years are passing, my dear, and presently nobody will know what you and I know Nabokov,Speak, MemoryFull disclosure the only fan letter I have ever sent in my life is to Mary Karr, after having the pleasure of meeting her when she came to Bryn Mawr One of my students once asked me when I had first decided to go to graduate school, and what I told her about was the day Mary Karr visited my memoir class with Karl Kirchwey As I recall, when she came in, the two of them were having a debate about T.S Eliot s notes to The Waste Land and whether they were legitimate or a joke So, Prof Kirchwey asked Ms Karr what she had thought of a lecture or maybe it was a conference she d attended on the issue, and she rolled her eyes heavenward and said with a laugh, Karl, don t piss down my leg and then tell me it s raining I cannot overstate my awe Karl, God bless and love him and I do too, really , is reserved cool as a cucumber is his natural state , erudite I do not exaggerate when I tell you the man has readeverythingin theoriginaland if anybody is wise to ol T.S s intentions, it s Karl and patrician referencing bodily functions of the lower orders seemed a shameful obscenity, for a minute, I was embarrassed on her behalf , and in my relatively sheltered little Bryn Mawr life up to that point, I had never met anyone who was confident and articulate enough to disagree with him, much less in such bold as brass terminology This woman was living up to the hype like gangbusters Over the course of her visit, she went on to enrapture me with verbatim recitations from sources as diverse as Wallace Stevens Rabbit as King of the Ghosts and Shakespeare sKing LearShe also seemed touched by my comment about her own sense of tragedy in her early work as really resonating with my understanding of trauma, grief, and sacrifice as Roman Catholic, admitting that she was a convert later in her life, a raucous story she details inLitMary Karr was genuinely engaged with literature as a motivating and moving art form It was like a bookish tent revival, and I was experiencing a conversion of my own to the church of the academia I had never before met someone who so adroitly combined an ambitious intellect with a fierce, suffer no fools personality.And I decided at that moment, I have not lived an interesting enough life to write a truly compelling memoir, but maybe I could go to graduate school and become smart and sassy enough to debate T.S Eliot with Karl Kirchwey So, that is what I did, and I owe that decision and so much to Karl Kirchwey and of course, to Mary Karr Bottom line GO FORTH AND READ HER.