Monthly Archives: March 2011

The Liar’s Club: A Memoir

book by Mary Karr

annotation by Wendy M. Fontaine

Mary Karr may have set the bar in the art of memoir with her timeless book, The Liars’ Club, which tells the hilarious and heart-breaking story of the author’s tumultous childhood in rural East Texas.

The title comes from the group of drinking buddies with whom the author’s father, Peter, swaps tall tales. The story is about Mary and her sister, Lecia, two pugnacious youngsters who raise hell in their neighborhood (first in Texas and later in Colorado) while also dealing with the strain of alcoholism, domestic instability, sexual abuse and death.

Karr wrote the memoir in 1995 as a single mother, long after the events of her childhood were behind her. But her ability to create gritty, vivid scenes brings the reader to the raw center of her years in Leechfield, a swampy, muddy oil town that her father said was “too ugly not to love.”

The scenes are so powerful and real that you can almost see the dirt under your own fingernails.  Karr delivers these vibrant scenes with a language so lyrical and textured that it feels like poetry – fitting, given that she was an award-winning poet long before she wrote her first memoir.

The language is simple and direct, with the tell-it-like-it-is charm of the south; Karr writes the way people talk, which brings this book its credibility and appeal.

“Your mother’s threat of homicide, however unlikely she tries to make it sound,” Karr writes, “will flat dampen down your spirits.” Continue reading

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Happy Birthday, Tom Wolfe

The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor is a podcast, newsletter and website produced by Minnesota Public radio.  They feature a poem of the day and biological information about writers whose birthdays fall on any given day. 

Today’s installment included the birthday of noted writer Thomas Kennerly “Tom” Wolfe, Jr. , one of the early purveyors of the “New Journalism” movement that gained momentum in the 1960’s.  The author profile includes exerpts of some of his most famous works – The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test – and his views on the craft of “New Journalism” and why getting to the “emotional core” of a story is so important.

Read more here