Mary is advocating that writers not be chained to exactitudes. But in giving this kind of permission, she is opening the door to a small battleground where absolutists are going to have a field day with her. For black-and-white thinkers there is truth or not truth.
Last week Mary Karr presented her new book The Art of Memoir to an audience in Berkeley, California. Brooke Warner, my co-teaching colleague, interviewed Mary in the intimate hall of the Hillside Club, a historical building with a wooden floor and small stage.
I'd like to raise a quiet hand in defense of structure. Indeed, it has always seemed to me that structure defines memoir -- elevates it above mere autobiography, distinguishes it from journalism and essay, rescues it from narcissism.
"Once we caught on to the sounds we were making, from there on we were rolling. Pretty much everything you hear with the exception of a fiddle here or there and a couple of background voices was what we produced on the floor."
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.
The paperback of my memoir was released recently, but I barely recognize my own book with the new cover. It hurts my heart to say goodbye to the gerbils on the hardcover edition of The Gerbil Farmer's Daughter.