Tag Archives: Memoir

Mary Karr 2020 Why Not?

Mary Karr* is the only writer I’m reading lately whose sentences are so good that I stop reading to write them down. These are from Cherry, her memoir of school years, which perhaps if you’ve never read Mary Karr you may think a dull premise for a memoir. Like, in third grade I loved Garbage Pail Kids but my mom wouldn’t buy them because they seemed to reject classical Western/religious principles of personal/godly dignity and ennoblement (Hi Mom!), now buy my life story!

But Mary Karr’s alchemic pen spins sand to gold and writes a memoir backwards and in heels:

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Sometimes People Get Sick

Eliot Kukla wrote a beautiful meditation on the ways that our vulnerabilities and weaknesses define us.

Approximately 0.6 percent of American adults identify as transgender, just under 0.2 percent of the world population is Jewish, and 100 percent of us will get sick, yet it is being chronically sick that makes me feel like an outsider. That’s how much our society fears and rejects the core human experience of being ill, of having a body that gets sick, that ages, that is not controllable.

The United States’ mandate to be forever strong and self-sufficient belies the reality of human experience: we are neither.  Continue reading

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Getting More Interested in Cheryl Strayed

Though this write-up, “Eat, Pray, Love Like a Badass: Cheryl Strayed, the Oprah Author 2.0,” does a suspicious cheerleader vs school slut thing with Elizabeth Gilbert.

But Strayed, with her unsentimental, unflinching attitude toward the muck of life, seems like an odd choice to be paired with Oprah’s New Age-lite brand of yoga pants, vision boards, and Dr. Oz-endorsed juice cleanses. Strayed’s “radical empathy” contradicts Dr. Phil’s blustering judgmental condemnations. In her 2006 blueprint essay for Wild, “The Love of My Life,” Strayed gives a hard glimpse into a bout of promiscuity after her mother’s death that eventually ended her marriage: “I didn’t bargain, become depressed, or accept. I fucked. I sucked. Not my husband, but people I hardly knew, and in that I found a glimmer of relief.” This is a sharp contrast to the first line of Gilbert’s memoir, “I wish Giovanni would kiss me,” conjuring giddy, girlish romance in a foreign land.

Not to say the contrast isn’t there to be exploited.

Then there was another woman writing, first-person, about emotion and sex. Mazza coming out as being “frigid,” a word she uses deliberately, with all its baggage. Rather than the perhaps more artful term asexual.

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All the Memoir Ladies

True confession: I have no opinion one way or another about memoir. I have liked some and forgotten others.

But for a time, memoir was literature’s for-profit college. Its orphan home for the can’t-quite and never-will.

The worn-down casino where the addicts, the terminally ill, and the refugees from strict religion go to gamble their pain into royalties.

The genre where women can get published.

But these politics of memoir were subtext, at most, in Sarah Hepola’s recent essay on xoJane it-girl Cat Marnell. Cat Marnell spectacularly gives beauty advice couched in writing about drugs, addiction, and pain. And she recently quit to get high and write a book.


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