Mary Karr, Ph.D.

Award-Winning, Bestselling Memoirist & Poet

“Karr is a national treasure.” —George Saunders

“Mary Karr is a pistol. She brings firepower to the podium with great style and a contagious Texas twang . . . our audience is still talking about her memorable performance.” —Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures

“Mary Karr captivates and befriends her audience with her understated intelligence, her adroit use of language, and her generous, self-deprecating good humor.” — Festival of Faith and Writing Lecture

Mary Karr, Ph.D. is an award-winning poet and New York Times best-selling memoirist, and the Jesse Truesdell Peck Professor of Literature at Syracuse University. She is the author of the critically-acclaimed, best-selling memoirs The Liars’ Club, Cherry, and Lit. In the New York Times ranking of The Liars’ Club as one of “The 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years” Dwight Garner called it “one of the best books ever written about growing up in America.” The Art of Memoir, is Karr’s master class on the fastest-growing literary genre. It debuted at #3 on the New York Times Bestseller List and was blanketed in stellar reviews, and her book for graduates based on her acclaimed 2015 Syracuse “Gift of Fear” commencement speech, Now Go Out There (and Get Curious), has become a perennial graduation gift book. Tropic of Squalor is her latest book of poems that “are thrilling in their vitality, dazzle, nerve, longing, and camouflaged depth.” (Kirkus). In 2015 Syracuse University awarded Karr an honorary doctorate in humane letters. Karr made her debut as a songwriter with the release of Kin: Songs by Mary Karr & Rodney Crowell. She is an in-demand speaker on her career, writing, alcoholism, mental health, faith and spirituality, Catholicism, sexual abuse, and as a commencement speaker.

A born raconteur, Karr brings to her lectures and talks the same wit, irreverence, joy, and sorrow found in her poetry and prose. A sought-after keynote speaker, she has given distinguished talks about writing and her career at prestigious universities, libraries, and writers’ festivals, including Harvard University, Oxford University, Princeton University, Brown University, Syracuse University (“On Salmon Rushdie” with Salmon Rushdie), the New York Public Library, the Los Angeles Public Library, the Folger Library (Poetry Society of America/Emily Dickinson Lecture), The New Yorker Literary Festival, PEN/Faulkner, and the Festival of Faith and Writing. She has been the keynote speaker about her alcoholism and recovery to both the medical profession and the recovery community, and has spoken extensively about her unlikely conversion to Catholicism. Karr welcomes conversation with her audience and she is known for her spirited, lively, and engaging Q&A sessions.

Praise for Mary Karr’s Talks

“Mary Karr is a pistol. She brings firepower to the podium with great style and a contagious Texas twang . . . our audience is still talking about her memorable performance.”    

—Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures

“Mary Karr’s presentation at the ‘Trying to Say ‘God” literary gathering at the University of Notre Dame was the highlight of the three-day event. She enthralled the audience of writers from around the U.S. and Canada with her trademark humor, honesty, poetry, and spiritual insight. Everyone went away inspired.”

—Kenneth Garcia, PhD, Associate Director, Institute for

Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, University of Notre Dame

“Hosting Mary Karr was a highlight for the literary community at Emerson College. Lyrical, funny, and always genuine, she connected with the audience during both the reading and the Q&A in a way that’s rare.”                                                                                    —Emerson College

“Mary Karr captivates and befriends her audience with her understated intelligence, her adroit use of language, and her generous, self-deprecating good humor.”      — Festival of Faith and Writing Lecture

“[Karr’s] lecture – ‘Spiritual Tools for Recovery from Addiction and Depression’ – was smart, funny, and enthusiastically received by scientists often cynical about such subjects.” —Bruce Phariss, MD, Weill Cornel Medical College

“Mary Karr is a literary rock star – funny, profound, profane, and deeply spiritual all at once.  Her talk touched a chord in so many of us, especially her prayerful journey to faith that helped ease her transition into sobriety. Her lecture “From Black-belt Sinner to Sweet Baby Jesus” distilled a lot of her experience of her memoirs, especially Lit.  She elicited some great questions from the audience and her answers were filled with the hard won wisdom gained from her life.” —Dr. Mark Bosco, S.J., Cardinal Newman Lecture, Loyola University Chicago

“Karr was a pro at addressing the whole crowd – a rather mixed group of young and old, writers and non-writers. Despite the 150 people in the audience, the night felt like an intimate chat. Mary was lively, funny, candid, and insightful.” —University of San Francisco

“Mary Karr far exceeded our expectations—we knew that she would be an engaging speaker, but we were deeply moved by how sacrificially she offered herself to our students in service to her message about the pursuit of truth. We’ve hosted many exceptional speakers (Pulitzer Prize winners, MacArthur Grant award winners, etc.), but Mary was in a class by herself in the power of her message and her generosity toward us all. What Mary Karr gave to our students was not just an inspiring lecture—it was a dazzling experience. We are all still aglow with her light. I truly believe that her visit will have been an important moment for them in their lives as young adults learning to attend to the truth within themselves.”

—Tara Fee, Associate professor of English, Washington & Jefferson College

“Mary Karr was a speaker at our Department of Psychiatry Grand Rounds. Ms. Karr talked about her experiences with addiction and getting sober, focusing on the role of spirituality in recovery. The place was packed with over 300 mental health professionals, many pretty ignorant about the actual experience of recovery. Everyone agreed that it was one of the best Grand Rounds in many years.” —Elizabeth L. Auchincloss, M.D., Vice-chair, Graduate Medical Education, Department of Psychiatry Weill Cornell Medical College

“Mary Karr’s keynote was the highlight of HippoCamp 2016, and a perfect choice for a conference dedicated solely to the craft of creative nonfiction. She was warm and compassionate as much as she was firm and challenging (as in—we must write). She mixed in practical advice with personal anecdotes. Karr remained energetic and welcoming through the book-signing, taking time with each attendee to sign books, take photos, and, to listen. Our post-conference surveys raved about her Art of Memoir keynote—for the content of her talk and for her kindness.”

—Donna Talarico, director, HippoCamp: A Conference for Nonfiction Writers

“As snappy, pertinent and profound as her memoirs, as deeply considered as her poetry, Mary Karr confirms everything her readers already know, that she is an indispensable voice in the world of letters.”                             —Center for Catholic Studies, Fairfield University

“Mary Karr’s presentation at the San Miguel Writers’ Conference was everything a meeting planner looks for. Her warm, engaging style; her love for her audience; and her beloved dry humor and self-effacing wit led us to a long, loving standing ovation. Her talk was well organized, substantive, and an inspiration to writers. And above all, people who have relished every word she writes and were longing to meet this person live were warmly rewarded. She generously gave herself to us for that hour.”

—Susan Page, Director, San Miguel Writers’ Conference

“Mary Karr was one of the most inspiring speakers we have had in our Symposium’s history. Her raw authenticity, her commitment to her craft, her wit, her graciousness to everyone she met, all combined into a time we will never forget. It’s like she hit a gong of Truth that keeps reverberating.”                                          — Point Loma Nazarene University

“Karr gave a healthy dose of reality without holding back on the compassion. So what you read is what you get, and for people caught up in the artifice and self-importance of contemporary life, that goes a long way.”               — Mockingbird Ministries

“Mary Karr was the best Drue Heinz lecturer at Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures I’ve seen in 10 years.”                       —Terrance Hayes, poet and winner of the 2001 National Poetry Series

“Mary Karr is a literary gem. If only her words and wisdom could be distilled into a soft drink, bottled up and sold to struggling writers across the planet.” —Mayborn Nonfiction Conference

“Mary Karr does not disappoint. The person fans of her writing feel they know so well is exactly who you get when she comes to speak. If there is a way in which a facet of her personality is emphasized it is in her kindness, generosity and accessibility. Be prepared for her to shift the conversation back to you and try to draw you out. She truly is a storyteller who loves the stories of human kind.”             —Becky Ford, Director Faith & Courage Lectures, Christ Church Greenwich

“Mary Karr’s wonderful talk at grand rounds [at New York Hospital’s Cornell Medical School of Psychiatry] was trenchant, brave, and savagely funny.” —Richard F. Friedman, Weill Cornell Medical College

“Mary Karr’s hilarious, hair-raising talk rocked our auditorium of mental health professionals, but she also leant hope with concrete experience gleaned through her 22-year recovery from alcoholism and depression.”                        —SUNY Upstate Medical University

“The wit and wisdom of Mary Karr is second to none. She did it all: she made us think, she made us laugh, and she made us want to tell a better story with our own lives.”

—Matt Popovits; Founder of VoxCon

“The inmates got the real deal Mary Karr. She answered questions about her struggles, her personal life, and her motivations about writing. The advice she gave to the inmates was priceless.”   —Sarah Shotland, student teacher at Allegheny County Jail Writing Program

“Mary was incredibly funny and engaging and well-received by our crowd. She touches on rather heady, sensitive topics in an inspirational and humorous manner. We highly recommend Mary Karr as a presenter.” —Helen Bow & Gena Horak, Co-chairs of Literacy Council of Fort Bend County’s  2016 Reading Between the Wines

More About Mary Karr and Her Work

In Karr’s “The Art of Memoir” lectures she brings a wealth of knowledge that comes from teaching literature and writing for nearly three decades and writing three critically acclaimed memoirs that are routinely named as the best in the genre. Anchored by excerpts from her favorite memoirs and anecdotes from fellow writers’ experience, she lays bare her own process. She also shares inside stories about how she dealt with family and friends who appear in her books and the dark spaces in her own skull probed in depth. As Karr breaks down the key elements of great literary memoir, breaks open our concepts of memory and identity, and illuminates the cathartic power of reflecting on the past, anybody with an inner life or complicated history, whether writer or reader, will relate. She share’s with audiences her techniques for honing craft, technique, finding your voice, the complexity of writing the truth, writing about family and friends, how to choose a detail, and structure.

The Liars’ Club won prizes for best first nonfiction from PEN (The Martha Albrand Award for nonfiction), the Texas Institute for Letters, and was a finalist for The National Book Critics Circle Awards. It chronicled her hardscrabble Texas childhood with enough sass and literary verve to spark a renaissance in memoir, cresting the New York Times best-seller list for more than a year. Cherry, her ecstatically reviewed account of a psychedelic adolescence and a moving sexual coming-of-age, followed it into best-sellerdom. Hailed as “the memoir of the season,” Lit answers the question asked by thousands of fans: How did Karr make it out of that toxic upbringing to tell her own tale?

Lit received an avalanche of rave reviews across the country in every major publication and was an immediate best-seller, having hit the New York Times, Independent Booksellers, San Francisco Chronicle, and Boston Globe best-seller lists. It was a “Best Book of 2009”: #3 in nonfiction books on Time’s “The Top 10 Everything of 2009”, New York Times Book Review (Top 10), New York Times, Michiko Kakutani (Top 10), New Yorker (Reviewer Favorite), Entertainment Weekly (Top 10), Time (Top 10), Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, Slate, St. Louis Post Dispatch, Cleveland Plain Dealer, and Seattle Times. She also won Audiofile’s Earphones Award for audio excellence for her reading of the audio book of Lit.

Lit chronicles Karr’s brazen battle into adulthood, taking readers on a journey into awe while tracing her search for the solid family she never had. On the way, she falls into the thrall of Jack Daniels, the blue-blood poet she marries, their child, and most bizarrely of all – Baby Jesus. Never have alcoholism and depression been rendered with more hilarity; no other modern memoir has so vividly brought to life the struggle with faith. As Francine Prose wrote in the New York Review of Books: “Contemporary Believers and nonbelievers have long been drawn to confessions, like Saint Augustine’s, that read like dispatches from the knock-down drag-out encounter between God and the stubborn sinner. Lit . . . is one of those.” Of her new-found faith, Karr writes, “If you’d told me, once I started taking my son to church regular – solely at his behest, with a paperback to pass the time – that I’d wind up whispering my sins in the confessional or on my knees saying the rosary, I would’ve laughed myself cockeyed. More likely pastime? Pole dancer. International spy. Drug mule. Assassin.”

Karr’s story in Lit can’t be reduced to a sound bite. The way Catcher in the Rye isn’t about therapy, Lit isn’t just another drunkalogue of breakdown and recovery. Karr creates a world as rich and as varied as the best novels. How she forges a lasting truce with the mother she could never quite outrun and the son she can barely keep up with is both harrowing and riotous. Lit is a tour de force with a sass not seen since Huck Finn. A contemporary classic.

Of her poet’s soul, Karr says, “From a very early age, when I read a poem, it was as if the poet’s burning taper touched some charred filament in my rib cage to set me alight.” Her poetry grants include The Whiting Writer’s Award, an NEA, a Radcliffe Bunting Fellowship, and a Guggenheim. She has won prizes from Best American Poetry as well as Pushcart Prizes for both poetry and essays. Her four volumes of poetry are Sinners Welcome (HarperCollins, 2006), Viper Rum (Penguin, 1998), The Devil’s Tour (New Directions, 1993), and Abacus (Wesleyan, 1986). Her work appears in such magazines as The New YorkerThe AtlanticPoetry, and Parnassus.

Karr is the Jesse Truesdell Peck Professor of Literature at Syracuse University and was the weekly poetry editor for the Washington Post Book World’s “Poet’s Choice” column, a position canonized by Bob Hass, Ed Hirsch, and Rita Dove. She lives in Syracuse, New York and New York City.

Praise for The Art of Memoir

A master class on memoir, from a memoirist who pulls no punches.”

   — Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Karr is a national treasure—that rare genius who’s also a brilliant teacher. This joyful celebration of memoir packs transcendent insights with trademark hilarity. Anyone yearning to write will be inspired, and anyone passionate to live an examined life will fall in love with language and literature all over again. ”

— George Saunders

The Art of Memoir is passionate and irreverent and reminds us why we love a good memoir.”


 “Full of Karr’s usual wit, compassion and, perhaps most reassuringly, self-doubt. Her fans should be delighted – and they can’t go wrong reading the books she discusses, including her own.”

 — Washington Post

“Mary Karr has written another astonishingly perceptive, wildly entertaining, and profoundly honest book – funny, fascinating, necessary. The Art of Memoir will be the definitive book on reading and writing memoir for years to come.”

— Cheryl Strayed

 “Should be required reading for anyone attempting to write a memoir, but anyone who loves literature will enjoy it too.”

Wall Street Journal

 “Mary Karr strikes a vein in The Art of Memoir.”

 — Vanity Fair

 “With a trio of notable memoirs (The Liars’ Club, Cherry, and Lit), Mary Karr is exquisitely qualified to write this book, a kind of compendium of advice, warning, and deep insight into what makes a personal history stick in a reader’s mind.”

Boston Globe

 “Karr really is an artist. The Art of Memoir attests to how hard she works at getting her words just right and how deeply she understands the way great writing works.”


 “A veritable blueprint for the genre…. Lovers of the form and aspiring scribblers alike will relish this comprehensive appreciation of and guide to ‘writing the real self.’”

O: The Oprah Magazine

 “Could have been called ‘The Art of Living.’”

 — San Francisco Chronicle

“As useful for those of us who want to be better friends and lovers as it is for those of us who want to pen our life story.”


A celebration of the creative life.”

 — Austin American-Statesman

Praise for Lit

“Searing. . . [Karr] has written a book that lassos you, hogties your emotions and won’t let you go. . . Explores the subjectivity of memory even as it chronicles with searching intelligence, humor and grace the author’s slow, sometimes exhilarating, sometimes painful discovery of her vocation and her voice as a poet and writer. . . Karr writes with such intensity and poetry. . . This struggle to reconcile her past and present, her family and her future, is the steel-wired ribbon that not only runs through this affecting book, but that also connects it to Ms. Karr’s two earlier memoirs – the bright, elastic thread on which she so deftly strings the colored beads of her tumultuous life.”

 — Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

“[Karr] seems to have been born with the inability to write a dishonest – or boring – sentence.”

— Lev Grossman, Time (Top 10 Citation)

A master class on the art of the memoir. Mordantly funny, free of both self pity and sentimentality, Karr describes her attempts to untether herself from troubled family in rural Texas, her development as a poet and writer, and her struggles to navigate marriage and young motherhood even as she descends into alcoholism.”

New York Times Book Review, Top 10 Notable Books Citation

“Howlingly funny… In some ways, Lit is her most intimate book. The overall impression is of a sorrowful narrative poem as humble and funny as it is beautiful. Karr is an ‘inveterate check grabber,’ she tells us, out of ‘the poor girl’s need to prove solvency.’ Perhaps a similar need drives her generosity on the page. Certainly her readers, once again, are the lucky beneficiaries.”

—Mary Pols, Time

 “No one should be surprised to find a certain combination of gut-spilling emotional volatility along with the survivor’s keen ability to detach far enough to tell a rollicking story. But the book is more than a recovery memoir. Karr writes unflinchingly about marriage, class, guilt, and the struggle to make peace with her raw, melodramatic, yet wildly interesting past.”


“You’d think that after a couple of best-selling memoirs (The Liars’ Club, Cherry), Mary Karr wouldn’t have much more to say about herself. But Lit shows that a first-rate writer doesn’t need to repeat herself or trump up false epiphanies in order to craft a fascinating autobiography. The book glows with Karr’s descriptions – coming to terms with her alcoholism, her early lean years as a poet and teacher, her chaotic love life – but there’s nothing sentimental or self-congratulatory about her prose.”

—Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly (Best Books Citation)

 “Karr could tell you what’s on her grocery list, and its humor would make you bust a gut, its unexpected insights would make you think and her pitch-perfect command of our American vernacular might even take your breath away. The closest relative to the memoir form is poetry, because the subject of the story doesn’t matter as much as the self-awareness and craft of the writer telling it. In this, the Guggenheim Fellow in poetry holds the position of grande dame memoirista.”

Los Angeles Times

 “In a gravelly, ground-glass-under-your-heel voice that can take you from laughter to awe in a few sentences, Karr has written the best book about being a woman in America I have read in years.

— Susan Cheever, New York Times Book Review

 “One of the best memoirists of her generation. . . She is, as always, unsparing in her honesty and humanity. . . [A] radiant, rueful, rip-roaring book. . . Karr writes . . . with a rare vividness, humor, and candor. . .Warm enough to burn a hole in your heart.

 — Entertainment Weekly

 “Scrappy, gut-wrenching. . . Irresistible. . . . [Written] with trademark wit, precision, and unfailing courage.”

— Pam Houston, O Magazine

 “This affecting memoir – the third in a series that includes The Liars’ Club and Cherry – documents Karr’s alcoholism, the breakdown of her marriage, and the unlikely redemption she finds in the Catholic Church.”

The New Yorker

 “Mary Karr restores memoir form’s dignity with Lit.”

Vanity Fair

 “A brutally honest, sparkling story.”


 “Karr movingly depicts her halting journey into AA, making it clear her grit and spirit remain intact.”

People (3 ½ out of 4 stars)

 “Completes a landmark trio of literary confessionals from best-seller Mary Karr. . . and complements the story of her mother’s destructive drinking that the Texas-born Karr has previously captured so colorfully and painfully. . . [A] body-and-soul-baring memoir.”




 “Lit matches its predecessors in candor and outstrips them in insight. Karr exam-ines her past darkness in the light of the faith and self-knowledge that she spent those years working toward. She lays out her descent into addiction, her process of recovery, and her path to conversion with an honesty that makes it all intelligible to addicts and teetotalers, believers and nonbelievers. As she discerns God’s presence in her life, the hole left by her childhood traumas finally seems to be filled, and the result is something like a miracle… Now she can joke about God and still profess that, for her, belief is a matter of life and death.”

— Commonweal, independent journal of opinion edited and managed by lay Catholics

“[Karr] manages to report her self-imposed decline in a blunt and darkly humorous voice that is as irresistible as it is unflinchingly honest. . . With grace, saltiness and profanity galore, Karr undeniably re-establishes herself as one of our finest memoirists and storytellers. . . You do not have to be a rehabilitated drunk or go to church, or have a had a terrible childhood, or get so swept up in a book you forget to let the dog out to pee to find yourself in this book – you have only to be human. Lit is a testament to the healing power of love that beats at the heart of every good story.”

San Francisco Chronicle

 “Karr’s sharp and funny sensibility won me over to her previous two volumes, but what wins me over to Lit is the way her acute self-awareness conquers any hint that hers is the only version of this story. . . As with all stories that surprise us, the specificity of the account gives it its punch. . . Karr is full of regret, but she’s also as funny as ever on the subject of her own sinning. . . The language often captures, precisely, the tension between the intellectual and the emotional, the artistic and the spiritual. This is a story not just of alcoholism but of coming to terms with families past and present, with a needy self, with a spiritual longing Karr didn’t even know she possessed. It sounds as if she was hellish to be around for much of the time she describes here, but she is certainly good company now.”

Washington Post

With grace, saltiness and profanity galore, Karr . . . re-establishes herself as one of our finest memoirists and storytellers.”

 — San Francisco Chronicle (Best Books Citation)

 “Dazzling. . . Karr is the real thing. . . Ultimately, Lit reminds us not only how compelling personal stories can be, but how, in the hands of a master, they can transmute into the highest art.”

 — Boston Globe

 “A redemptive, painfully funny story.”

USA Today

 “Compelling, and beautifully written. . . . Following Karr’s rise from unpublished, drunk poet to sober, Godly literary darling is the funniest damn thing – even her forays into the institution (“the mental Marriott.” In Karr’s parlance) are a riot, and the humor never seems forced.”

— Johann Hari, Slate

“The brouhaha that flared last week when Publishers Weekly announced its list of Top Ten Books of the Year, a list that garnered probably unwanted but inevitable attention for not including any books by a female writer, shifted this week from egregious oversight to blatant inaccuracy with the publication of Mary Karr’s searing and transcendent new memoir, Lit, which belongs securely on any respectable list of top ten books of the year… With this third book Karr has managed to raise the bar higher still on the genre of memoir.”

— Steve Ross, Huffington Post

“What distinguishes Karr’s book from most others . . . is her mordant humor and exceptional writing. Throughout, her descriptions are startling and poetic. . . This is a truly harrowing story, but so poetically written that unlike many memoirs, the material seems riveting rather than repugnant. And not once does the author paint herself as the heroine of her own life. (There isn’t a single false note in Lit.) Her hard-won contentment is inspiring, and above all, miraculous.”

 — Christian Science Monitor

“[Karr] continues to delight with her signature dark humor and pitch-perfect metaphors… Karr’s prose moves at a quick and seductive clip, delivering large doses of wit and painful insights. . . There are plenty of memoirs about being drunk, but this one has Karr’s voice – both sure-footed and breezy – behind it. . . Even when Karr is writing about church, Lit has flashes of brilliance to keep you under its intoxicating spell.”

 — Time Out New York

“[Karr] pulls it off because, despite the narcissism and drama, she’s a very likable character. If you’ve read Karr before, you know she’s a terrific storyteller – and a poet. Her language is both precise and vivid, as though she were writing in color. If you like her other books or recovery memoirs in general, you’ll probably enjoy this one.”

— Ellen Silva, senior editor, NPR’s All Things Considered

“As one of contemporary America’s most beloved purveyors of the genre, The Liars’ Club and Cherry author Mary Karr has never lacked for material. But she’s always delivered on the craft side, too, with her poet’s gift for show-and-tell. . . Karr’s too smart and accomplished a writer to not acknowledge her genre’s limitations. But while it’s fashionable for memoirists to ‘fess up that memoir is a fuzzy thing, Karr sincerely and passionately believes in the truth. . . If what we expect from Mary Karr is to deliver transcendence for $25.99, she delivers.”

Minneapolis Star Tribune 

“Karr tells the story with the same down-to-earth writing – some of it funny – that she brought to her first two memoirs. . . Her willingness to show herself in this light and the humility with which she writes about recovery and faith are testaments to the honesty of both her writing and her life.”

Cleveland Plain Dealer

Riveting. . .As unsparing and unsentimental as her first two memoirs and, like the others, by turns hilarious and gut-wrenching. She again brings to the task her acerbic wit and poet’s eye for lyrical detail. . . Karr’s entire body of work attests to this simple truth: that the past, until you reckon with it, will remain in hot pursuit. In other words, what you don’t bring into the light will destroy you. Lit brings this process full circle. That pleasingly monosyllabic title encapsulates this writer’s entire journey thus far – one that is about drinking and the illuminating revelations of sobriety, about the redemptive power of literature and how the act of writing can save a soul.”


 “Only an extraordinary writer like poet Mary Karr could come up with a third act . . . without collapsing under the weight of cliché.”

Austin American-Statesman

“Mary Karr sparked a memoir revival with The Liars’ Club – now she’s back with Lit to describe how she turned those early troubles into literary gold.”

Body + Soul

“Written in almost flawless image-filled prose and moving seamlessly from present to past and back again… her ability to tell a good story and her flair for written expression, Karr has found another way to leave a mark and to make peace with herself, her back story and those around her.”

— Dallas Morning News

“In short, in Lit Karr continues to deliver the goods. How exactly does she deliver those goods? Foremost, with her magnificent writing; she can make an almost-silent car ride or the most awkward AA meeting come to life in brimming color. She is never dull, pedantic, preaching or whining (as some memoirists, unfortunately, certainly are). Neither is she coy or, worse, impressionist in a ‘poetess’ kind of way. She is a realist, with absurdist tendencies reined in by her dedication to the truth, which is most often scathingly self-indicting… She illuminates, and she is entertaining as she does so.”

— Oregonian

 “Karr’s life, in fact, is no darker than ours; she’s just much better at describing the hue, which is why Lit stands apart from the dreary dollops of cream typical among American book sequels. It is as powerful as Liars’ Club, as restless as Cherry and as exquisitely written as any of Karr’s award-winning collections of poetry.”

— St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Hard to put down… Utterly compelling, featuring Karr’s cleverness and wit…. Written in almost flawless image-filled prose and moving seamlessly from present to past and back again.”

—Michelle Jones, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

 “Karr recalls her experience of these relatively ordinary events with a poet’s economy, an adult’s rueful wisdom, and a native Texan’s salty humor.”

— Wendy Smith, AARP

Lit contains more than a whiff of the standard recovery narrative as Karr gropes her way toward her new faith. The saving grace, so to speak, is that she, better than anyone, can reinvigorate a tired tale… The yarn spinning skill she inherited from her father and the love of words bequeathed by her mom… remain in full display.”

—Ellen Emry Heltzel, Seattle Times

“Karr builds on her ability to spin a yard and her gift with words to creat this story of her struggle with the bottle. Lit could serve as a 12-step program for writers as well as anyone who wants to know what the struggle is like.”

—Mary Ann Gwinn, Seattle Times (Best Books Citation)

Praise for The Liars’ Club

“This is one of the best books ever written about growing up in America. Karr evokes the contours of her preadolescent mind—the fears, fights and petty jealousies—with extraordinary and often comic vividness. This memoir, packed with eccentrics, is beautifully eccentric in its own right.”

—Dwight Garner, New York Times “The 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years”

“This book is so good I thought about sending it out for a back-up opinion … it’s like finding Beethoven in Hoboken. To have a poet’s precision of language and a poet’s insight into people applied to one of the roughest, toughest, ugliest places in America is an astonishing event.”

— Molly Ivins, The Nation

“The essential American story. A beauty.”

— Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World

“Overflows with sparkling wit and humor… Truth beats powerfully at the heart of this dazzling memoir.”

— San Francisco Chronicle

“Elegiac and searching… her toughness of spirit, her poetry, her language, her very voice are the agents of rebirth on this difficult, hard-earned journey.”

—Sheila Ballantyne, New York Times Book Review

“A dazzling, devastating memoir… Karr’s voice never falters or rings false.”


“Karr lovingly retells [her parents’] best lies and drunken extravagances with an ear for bar-stool phraseology and a winking eye for image. The revelations continue to the final page, with a misleading carelessness as seductive as any world-class liar’s.”

—The New Yorker

“Funny, lively, and un-put-downable.”

—USA Today

“Bold, blunt, and cinematic… nothing short of superb.”

—Margot Mifflin, Entertainment Weekly

“An astonishing memoir of a ferociously loving and dysfunctional family… Karr uses the rich cadence of the region and poetic images to shape her wrenching story.”


“Captivating, hilarious, and heartfelt.”

— Cyra McFadden, Los Angeles Times

Praise for Cherry

“Karr proves herself as fluent in evoking the common ground of adolescence as she did in limning her anomalous girlhood… As she did in The Liars’ Club, Ms. Karr combines a poet’s lyricism and a Texan’s down-home vernacular with her natural storytelling gift.”

—Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

“A fully achieved, lyrically rendered memoir of a bright young girl’s coming of age in America in the seventies.”

— Joyce Carol Oates, New York Review of Books

“Stunning… If The Liars’ Club succeeded partly because of its riveting particularity, Cherry succeeds because of its universality. The first book is about one harrowing childhood, the second about every adolescence. She can turn even the most mundane events into gorgeous prose.”

—Sara Mosle, New York Times Book Review

“Funny, profane, eloquent… no one tells stories like Karr.”

—USA Today

“Bawdy and wise… Mary Karr gives memoir back its good name.”

—San Francisco Chronicle

The Liars’ Club left no doubt that Mary Karr could flat out write… the one question everyone had upon finishing her story was, could she do it again? Cherry lays that question to rest once and for all… It never lacks for those trademark Karr details, but it’s about all of us.”

—Malcolm Jones, Newsweek

“Here, intact, is the smart, sassy, wickedly observant voice first met in The Liars’ Club, a voice that knows how to tell a story in a crackling vernacular that feels exactly true to its setting.”

—Wendy Law-Yone, Washington Post

Cherry delivers. Karr still has her delicious knack for making you guffaw through horrible events… its humor, warmth, and crackling language should keep Karr’s fans hungering for another round.”


“It’s the powerful spiked punch of Karr’s writing that amazes… Cherry is about the dizzy funk of female teen sexuality, and Karr captures the innocence and dirt of it, the hunger and the thrill, with exquisite pitch. Karr’s connection to her younger sexual self is profound without mercy or nostalgia… Karr identifies the vulnerable, frightening gap between most girls’ night thoughts and those in the day… Right now, in this remembrance of blooming, Karr continues to set the literary standard for making the personal universal.”

— Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

“Step aside, J. D. Salinger, and take your alter ego Holden Caulfield with you. Mary Karr has staked out your turf, the upended land of adolescence. And she is just smart, angry, sensitive and self-mocking enough to defend it with everything she’s got.”

— Chicago Sun Times

Praise for Sinners Welcome

“So much trickery has been got up to in relgion’s name that it’s natural to get nervous when a writer starts talking about salvation, but Karr never tries to substitute faith for sound poetic practices. If anything, by adding prayer, she just makes the poems that much stronger.”

— David Kirby, New York Times

Sinners Welcome mixes her beloved stories from the wrong side of the tracks with new notes of care and forgiveness and pure, often angry, hymns to God… It’s a daring mix. Before she had her fists up; now she strips herself bare, a far braver act.”

— Laurel Maury, Los Angeles Times

“Searing, not sentimental.”

—Sam Hodges, Dallas Morning News

“Skepticism is mitigated by Karr’s humor, her mildly ironic stance and her capacity for wry self-examination. Theology takes on a kind of earthy insight… As Karr knows, her endeavor is ages old. It may be that all lyric poetry aspires to prayer. What gives Sinners Welcome its sharp edge is the poet’s eloquently passionate struggle at the junction of doubt and devotion.”

—Judith Kitchen, Washington Post

Praise for Viper Rum

“Like Philip Larkin and Seamus Heaney, Karr intends poetry of the plain style and the truth of the unmistakably situated self, but is taught also by desire.”

—Allen Grossman

“You could say that Karr is a poet who refuses to flinch, even if the landscape of memory and experience resembles a particularly gruesome Bosch canvas, and who, for the most part, refuses to be consoled.”

—The Chicago Review

“One cannot help but cheer.”

—Harvard Review

“Karr stares hard in the face of hard fact… These poems rip up the Hallmark card and replace it with the difficult, demanding claims of love in an imperfect world… ‘Against Decoration,’ her courageous and provocative essay, is important… No poet writing today should proceed without at least noting Karr’s legitimate misgivings and taking them into account.”

— Georgia Review

 “Searing, not sentimental.”

— Sam Hodges, Dallas Morning News