Mary Karr author of “The Liar’s Club”has a new memoir “Lit” which is set in Cambridge.
The title “Lit” tilts two ways—referring both to drunkenness and to literature. Beginning her career as poet and memoirist, Karr who’s married to an upper class poet and the mother of baby Dev, begins to drink like a fish. But this fish – like a colorful, tropical fish- can swim in the English language with extraordinary fluidity. Karr’s downward swoop into alcohol scares her little boy and brings understandably taut distancing from her husband. Her crazy mother, made famous in The Liar’s Club adds more spice. Some salty living, a suicide attempt, and a downward slide into a hospital darken the landscape; then, finally, along comes AA. But Karr is wildly resistant to it, even comically so; the Steps, the “G” word, prayer. Somehow, though, Karr stands away from her own willfully stubborn drinking self with skepticism, as if she’s at once a rebellious teenager and her own stern critic. A guardian pal she names “Joan the Bone” sticks by her, delivering deadpan wisdom that Karr refutes and mocks, but her disturbing irreverence is rendered with poetic wit. This tension between the two women, and within herself, gradually does its bumpy work and eventually sobriety does come bringing, surprisingly, Catholicism along with it.
“Suicide as an idea seeps into your lungs like nerve gas. No precipitating event prompts my fixation on dying, just the dull racket of my head’s own Chihuahua-like bark—death, death, death. It becomes the one rabbit hole that will hide me. I can just cease to be. Picking up a drink would betray everybody who’s poured effort into my sobriety—like my suicide wouldn’t? But death-now, there’s a one-stop-shopping idea. Over the months, I start to convince myself that Dev’ll be better off without me (a grotesquely self-indulgent notion no parent can afford).