Tuesday, February 23, 2010

An Evening with Mary Karr

I have been so incredibly sick, but thank goodness I am on the road to recovery! School is still going well. Sometimes overwhelming but currently doable. Last Friday I was stable enough to attend the Angelo State Writer's Conference and hear Mary Karr speak.

Dr. Musgrove, Head of the English Department, introduced Mary Karr by talking about how he came to choose one of her memoirs for a class he was teaching. He read an excerpt from Cherry and talked about Karr’s ability to write unabashedly. After the introduction, Karr opened her talk with a poem from Sinner’s Welcome about her son. In this poem was a line that painted a beautifully vivid picture of telephone wires that “snapped and hissed like cobras” in Hurricane Gloria. She read another poem about her father called Illiterate Progenitor and he was “undiluted by the written word,” while her mother, sister and she were very bookish. Karr then talked about her Harvard graduate first husband and described him as “something you would win in a raffle.” She then read an excerpt from Lit describing her mother at the beauty salon getting primped for the rehearsal dinner. Her mother had decided to give up drinking, but decided to smoke pot with the guy who did her hair and the salon, and he turns her into a topiary toppling-haired drag queen. And as they proceed to the rehearsal dinner at the Ritz, her soon-to-be husband shows either impeccable denial of the situation or incredible WASP politeness towards her erratic mother. In closing, Karr allowed for questions about anything: her books, her life and her relationship with her mother.

During questions, someone asked about the element of truth involved in writing memoirs. Karr stated that memory is corrupt, but she writes events the way she members it. She also said that memory forms imagination and imagination forms memory. This statement really spoke to me. The focus on truth when writing a memoir is a variable gray area. My memory of an event is obviously not the exact truth, but it is the truth to me. The choices I have made growing up have been based partly on events that have taken place in my past. But, these decisions are not based on truth; they are based on memory. Karr stated that she did not conduct any research before writing her memoirs, but she did say that she recreated dialogue. Her writings are strictly what she remembers about her life, and as a reader, I think it gives great insight to her as a person. I want to say that her writings are untainted memories, but we already established that memory is corrupt.

Karr also talked about writing. She said that writer’s don’t choose their subjects; a subject chooses a writer. Sometimes writers hide who they truly are and imitate writers they enjoy. But these writings are empty because that lack the truth of the writer himself. During high school, one of my teachers introduced me to Sylvia Plath and gave me a copy of Colossus. I spent hours imitating her poems trying to become a writer, but the writings were hollow because I was not writing my true self.

Marry Karr novels to check out... Liar's Club, Cherry, Lit, and Sinner's Welcome!


Becky said...

she sounds wonderful!

Anonymous said...

Generally I do not post on blogs, but I would like to say that this post really forced me to do so! really nice post.

Brooke Ann Dove said...

Thank you! I was so excited about getting to hear Marry Karr speak! Thanks for reading!