The Art of Memoir (Hardcover)

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As someone who reads mostly fiction with the occasional collection of essays thrown in, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a book about writing a memoir—something I know very little about. Karr is the teacher we all wished to have; a fantastic sense of humor with a wicked intellect and the ability to convey her lessons through the page. She mentions many times that although she is paid to write about the “art of memoir,” she could not do so without the help of many others, whom she acknowledges and references throughout the book. Mary Karr describes the arduous process of committing to recollections and then publishing them. She points out early that she feels strongly about memoirists recording the closest truth that they can find in order to honor their readers and their own memories. After closing The Art of Memoir, I feel like I’ve been missing out on an entire, wonderful genre that I now have the opportunity to enjoy.  ~ Jordan *Signed copies*

— From 2015 Memoir/Biography

October 2015 Indie Next List

“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.

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9780062223067
ISBN-10: 0062223062
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: September 15th, 2015
Pages: 256
Language: English