Stephen King's book, "A Memoir Of The Craft, On Writing" is a must have book for writers. The first paragraph of his book says: "I was stunned by Mary Karr's memoir, "The Liars' Club. Not just by its ferocity, but its beauty, and by her delightful grasp of the vernacular, but by it totality- she is a women who remembers everything about her early years.".....
Wow, that is high praise indeed.
The Wall Street Journal said of "The Art of Memoir" that it is a book that should be “required reading for anyone attempting to write a memoir or who lives for literature”. Mary Karr can teach you about memoir but she becomes a little intimidating with her credentials. She is an English professor at Syracuse University, a successful non fiction writer, and you can tell she really knows her stuff.
Karr is passionate about her belief in the memoir approach and important literary style. She says “There is a lingering snobbery in the literary world that wants to disqualify what is broadly called nonfiction from the category of literature”.
As expected in a book like this she covers the basics especially focusing on importance of truth and the road to exaggeration and why memoirs fail.
Chapter 23, "Michael Herr: Start in Kansas, End in Oz", stood out. Herr was an American writer and war correspondent, known as the author of Dispatches, a memoir of his time as a correspondent for Esquire magazine during the Vietnam War.
Michael Kerr "Voice" in his on-war memoir “Dispatches” is much the same as his narration of “Apocalypse Now”. They both demonstrate that where you start and end is so important. Mary Karr uses this narrative and chapter to show the value of strong opening dialog.
Karr's discussion of this dialog, one sentence at a time, was a learning experience: “There was a map of Vietnam on the wall of my apartment in Saigon and some nights, I’d lie on my bed and look at it.....................”
"The Art of Memoir" will be an important book on both reading and writing in the years ahead.