Saturday, December 12, 2009

Snapshot Book Review: Lit

Lit: A Memoir Lit: A Memoir by Mary Karr

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is difficult to judge an author's work independently of his or her previous work. Having read Karr's previous two memoirs, The Liar's Club and Cherry, one cannot help but use them as measures by which to compare this third memoir. In terms of writing quality, Karr does not disappoint. She is nothing if not brutally honest, with a wry, self-deprecating wit that can turn on nearly anyone around her barring, perhaps, her son. Unlike her other novels, however, Lit is less of a "story" story and more of a personal confession--it seems as though it was written as an explanation to her son rather than as a story to her readers. This is not necessarily a shortcoming, except that in places, despite her continual brutal honesty and fresh wording (for Karr never has trite ways of telling anything), the tale gets to seem a bit long-winded.

Perhaps this is my own bias against religious reformation stories getting in the way of enjoying a perfectly good memoir, but when I find myself wishing to skip parts of a book, it makes me wonder if those parts are necessary to its telling. To Karr's credit, however, every moment is heartfelt, and this "reformation" is the truest-sounding I have ever read. (Because who undergoes religious reformation without digging in their heels, insisting "this is bullshit," and perpetually looking over their shoulder? I refuse to think otherwise, and Karr's experience seems to mirror my convictions.)

My other misgiving about the book was its ending--again a bit sentimental and "long" for Karr's ordinarily poignant and to-the-point style--but I will chalk it up again to the fact that she seemed to be writing the entire thing as a sort of "letter" to her son.

Overall, certainly a piece worth reading, particularly for fans of Karr's previous two memoirs. Karr continues to distinguish herself as a phenomenal writer, and were I not to compare this to her own work, it would certainly be a five-star piece.

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