So, I’m only about halfway done with Lit by Mary Karr, but I just had to take a break from my voracious inhaling of this book to tell you how much (and why) I like it. Karr’s story (which includes just about every kind of trauma you can think of) is raw, and her voice is rawer still. She’s a blood and guts writer and she’s not afraid to tell the truth in it’s most difficult forms. I find her brand of writing brave. I feel punched in the gut as I’m reading because this kind of truth-telling is challenging and it leaves you breathless and even a little charged.
In a culture of “if it looks good it is good,” getting gritty and grisly is often discomforting, yet the truth is always the thing that sets us free. Always. I feel brazened when I read this book, like I just took a shot of liquid courage, and I might just be able to say things and write about things even more honestly and even more openly.
I facilitated a writing workshop on Wednesday night — basically two and half hours on all the many ways I have felt stuck as a writer and what has helped at least a little bit — and I was reminded of how writing can help us get to the veiled truth in our lives, how writing into our memories and our stirrings (though we often don’t know how to make sense of them) will uncover a jewel if we are honest and diligent in the process.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Mary Karr is first and foremost a poet, so her language is otherworldly at times, haunting and melodic. She is at once a white trash Texan (self-proclaimed) and a refined artist. You see why her writing works.
This post is about Mary Karr and her soul-satisfying memoir. But I guess it’s also about an insatiable place in me that is hungry for truth and art and courage, a place in me that wants to see people who are telling the truth and surviving. People who are, with a poet’s pen, coaxing us toward health and wholeness in a way that is sly and slant (taken from Emily Dickinson who was recently quoted by my crush Eugene Peterson, “Tell all the truth/But tell it slant”), inviting each of us into process, reflection, and participation.
That is a true and rare gift.