Mary Karr is an award-winning poet and best-selling memoirist. She is the author of Lit, the long-awaited sequel to her critically-acclaimed and New York Times best-selling memoirs The Liars' Club and Cherry. A born raconteur she brings to her lectures and talks the same wit, irreverence, joy, and sorrow found in her poetry and prose. A sought after speaker, Karr has given distinguished talks 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. Karr welcomes conversation with her audience and she is known for her spirited, lively, and engaging Q&A sessions.
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?
In Lit, Karr takes readers on the journey of her descent into the inferno of alcoholism and madness, and her astonishing resurrection. "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." Lit is about getting drunk and getting sober; becoming a mother by letting go of a mother; learning to write by learning to live. With an unlikely tribe of gurus and saviors - and a hair-raising stint in "The Mental Marriott", Karr is brought to an unlikely faith. A self-professed black belt sinner and lifelong agnostic, she converts to Catholicism. Not since St. Augustine cried, "Give me chastity, Lord - but not yet!" has a conversion story rung with such dark hilarity.
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 (2006), Viper Rum (1998), The Devil's Tour (1993), and Abacus (1986). Her work appears in such magazines as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Poetry, 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.