We reached Mary Karr in the small window of time that she had after reading at Harvard, appearing in New York at Barnes & Noble, and heading off to Chicago for two appearances. Karr's next stop: the Deep South. The paperback edition of her searing, beautifully reviewed memoir, Lit, has hit the shelves, and Karr is striking out to stoke the sales buzz for a book that should be flying out the door all on its own.
And it seems to be doing just that. Lit debuts this week at #8 on the New York Times Paperback Bestseller List.
As readers of The Liar's Club, Cherry, and now Lit surely know, Mary Karr does not turn away from a fight. And if it takes some battling to get the sales she deserves in the desultory universe that publishing has become, she'll strap on her armor, mount a steed, and head anywhere her public wants to hear her. Always swamped by a crowd of devoted fans, a Karr reading never disappoints. The pages of Lit are indeed lit -- with the pain of addiction and isolation and the glory of recovery and community both. The author has a Texas drawl that is a real-time, audio highlighter for her ability to write a sentence that lives on the page. When she reads, it's like being read to for the very first time -- magical. Mary Karr on the road selling a book is enough to keep literature healthy for a summer season and well beyond.
But this is not a woman to stop at conventional readings in service to what can only be called a life devoted to literature in general and poetry in particular.
Mary Karr needs to challenge the zeitgeist. And that means taking on 'new media' and getting the public to drink from the well of poetry in a digital sphere where they're more likely to be surfing for cute kitty videos.
Mary's putting a "Poetry Fix" video on YouTube every Monday and Friday.
"Poetry Fix" is giving viewers a chance to be smart about poets and to be set aflame with the realization that poets, writing broken lines with meter and metaphor at their core, mean to do more than decorate the truth--they mean to convey it with an insistence of understanding that can't be denied. Mary and her assistant, Christopher Robinson, talk of the likes of Robert Hass, Pablo Neruda, Archilochos, and Wallace Stevens in short, 3-to-4 minute videos. Mary reads a poem, they exalt about the writing, the symbols, the impulses there. The viewer learns. And, Mary hopes, gets a little burned in the experience.
"I'm testing here and on Twitter," she says.
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