Literary Birthday – 16 January – Mary Karr

Happy Birthday, Mary Karr, born 16 January 1955.


  1. I write to dream; to connect with other human beings; to record; to clarify; to visit the dead. I have a kind of primitive need to leave a mark on the world. Also, I have a need for money.
  2. Memoir is not an act of history but an act of memory, which is innately corrupt.
  3. I’d spent way more years worrying about how to look like a poet — buying black clothes, smearing on scarlet lipstick, languidly draping myself over thrift-store furniture — than I had learning how to assemble words in some discernible order.
  4. The myth is that you make a lot of money when you publish a book. Unless you write a blockbuster, that’s pretty much untrue.
  5. The memoir’s antagonist has to be some part of the self, and the self has to be different at the end of the book than it was at the beginning.
  6. The emotional stakes a memoirist bets with could not be higher, and it’s physically enervating. I nap on a daily basis like a cross-country trucker.
  7. [The problems with memoirs today is] they’re not reflective enough. They lack self-awareness. I always tell my students that if the reader knows something about your psychology that you do not admit, you’re in trouble.
  8. Any idiot can publish a book. But if you want to write a good book, you’re going to have to set the bar higher than the marketplace’s. Which shouldn’t be too hard.
  9. My mother had given me a great love of art, truth, books, conversation, and beauty, and I was too angry at her to feel gratitude. I had to start living with some modicum of wonder, a state of praise rather than blame. It’s a journey from complaint to praise.
  10. That’s what’s so gorgeous about humanity. It doesn’t matter how bleak our daily lives are, we still fight for the light. I think that’s our divinity. We lean into love, even in the most hideous circumstances. We manage to hope.

Mary Karr is an American poet, essayist, and memoirist. She is well known for her best-selling memoir The Liars’ Club.

Suggested reading: Mary Karr’s Memoir Checklist To Stave Off Dread

Source for Image

by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 16th January 2014