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Listening to Mary Karr's "Lit"

Lit The Audio Publishers Association tells me June is Audiobook Month, and in celebration - and after throwing off the shackles and ditching the dull and unlistenable The Lost City of Z - I've settled on Mary Karr's memoir Lit as my audiobook choice du jour.

Lit, which earned rave reviews when it was published last fall, is the third of Karr's memoirs (after The Liar's Club and Cherry) and follows the poet through her years of college, marriage, childbirth and divorce, the continuation of her unholy drinking problem and her eventual sobriety, her conversion to Catholicism (!) and her literary success.

Like many readers, I've developed a resigned attitude toward I'm Sober Now! memoirs; you read enough of them, and you think: Really? Is there any new way to spin this same old story? In the hands of a writer as devastatingly straightforward as Karr, there absolutely is. Lit is funny as hell and terrible, too, honest and dark (a passage I just listened to regarding what happens to a marriage - and a bladder - after the birth of a baby is probably as honest an account as I've ever heard).

Having Karr read her own story is also a touch of brilliance. She's a terrific reader, with a flat, wry Texas accent that's alternately amused and disgusted by her own behavior. Dry as her humor is, though, she never sacrifices her hard-won knowledge for a good joke.

When she was here for the Miami Book Fair last fall, she told the Herald that writing Lit - which she said she did for the money because "if it didn't pay, I wouldn't do it; it's too hard" - was tougher than writing her earlier books: "It's much clearer who the asshole is. It's a little more humiliating. Harder to tell the truth. I threw out two versions of it. The first time I think because I got the marriage wrong. The second time because I got the religious-spiritual-prayer stuff wrong. It would have been real boring. I just hate the idea of boring somebody."

No chance of that, Ms. Karr.


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