The Art of Memoir
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The Art of Memoir


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 graduate teaching prizes for her highly selective seminar at Syracuse, where she mentored such future hit 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.

Title:The Art of Memoir
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:225 pages

    The Art of Memoir Reviews

  • Rebecca Foster
    Nov 03, 2016

    (4.5) I haven’t read Mary Karr’s memoirs, but I certainly will after reading her masterful survey of memoirs old and new. During her Texas upbringing full of alcoholism and abuse, “a first-perso...

  • Tiffany Reisz
    Jul 29, 2016

    Not going to write a memoirOr am I...If I did write a memoir I'd either called it "Holy Fuck" Or "The Story of Ø." ...

  • Thomas
    Nov 21, 2015

    As someone who aspires to write a memoir of his own one day, I found The Art of Memoir both engaging and encouraging. Writing a memoir requires more than just journaling memories onto a page. The prac...

  • Julie Ehlers
    Feb 09, 2016

    One of my favorite anecdotes Mary Karr tells in this book:In a private workshop with Etheridge Knight--an ex-con from Mississippi and elsewhere, ashy of knee and with hands rusty enough to strike a ma...

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    Aug 30, 2015

    I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The book comes out September 15.The queen of memoir, who also teaches classes in memoir writing, has published a boo...

  • Diane Barnes
    Sep 06, 2015

    I read this book not because I anticipate writing a memoir of my own, but because I love the form and was interested in how it's done. Some of the best books I've ever read have been memoirs, so it wa...

  • Paige
    Aug 14, 2015

    (I received this as an ARC)This book is advertised as a book about the art of memoir writing. But it's about so much more; the art of beautiful words, the art of truth, and the art of living an examin...

  • Ken
    Oct 03, 2015

    It's always hard to judge a book read in fits and starts. When you're busier than usual, you pick up your book-of-the-moment at odd times. And even if you end every day like I do -- reading in bed -- ...

  • Laurie Anderson
    Jan 11, 2016

    Wonderful book about memoir writing, based largely on the classes that Karr teaches. She did a great job balancing a few of her own stories with many examples from the memoirs of others. Highly recomm...

  • Leo Robertson
    Dec 21, 2015

    Wonderful compact overview of the memoir format, useful to non-fiction/fiction writers and appreciators of literature alike :) I feel like my ability to understand big swathes of literature has levell...

About Mary Karr

Mary Karr

Mary Karr is an American poet, essayist and memoirist. She rose to fame in 1995 with the publication of her bestselling memoir The Liars' Club. She is the Peck Professor of English Literature at Syracuse University.The Liars' Club, published in 1995, was a New York Times bestseller for over a year, and was named one of the year's best books. It delves vividly and often humorously into her deeply t