Happy Birthday, Mary Karr, born 16 January 1955
- I write to dream; to connect with other human beings; to record; to clarify; to visit the dead. I have a kind of primitive need to leave a mark on the world. Also, I have a need for money.
- Memoir is not an act of history but an act of memory, which is innately corrupt.
- I’d spent way more years worrying about how to look like a poet — buying black clothes, smearing on scarlet lipstick, languidly draping myself over thrift-store furniture — than I had learning how to assemble words in some discernible order.
- The myth is that you make a lot of money when you publish a book. Unless you write a blockbuster, that’s pretty much untrue.
- The memoir’s antagonist has to be some part of the self, and the self has to be different at the end of the book than it was at the beginning.
- The emotional stakes a memoirist bets with could not be higher, and it’s physically enervating. I nap on a daily basis like a cross-country trucker.
- [The problems with memoirs today is] they’re not reflective enough. They lack self-awareness. I always tell my students that if the reader knows something about your psychology that you do not admit, you’re in trouble.
- Any idiot can publish a book. But if you want to write a good book, you’re going to have to set the bar higher than the marketplace’s. Which shouldn’t be too hard.
- My mother had given me a great love of art, truth, books, conversation, and beauty, and I was too angry at her to feel gratitude. I had to start living with some modicum of wonder, a state of praise rather than blame. It’s a journey from complaint to praise.
- That’s what’s so gorgeous about humanity. It doesn’t matter how bleak our daily lives are, we still fight for the light. I think that’s our divinity. We lean into love, even in the most hideous circumstances. We manage to hope.
Suggested reading: Mary Karr’s Memoir Checklist To Stave Off Dread
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