Two Best Books I Have Read in a Long Time
1.) Mary Karr, Lit
Nothing short of astounding. I still get flack for my thesis defense and my defense (or lack thereof) of my female characters. I'd also struggled to name a lot (i.e., any) female authors for my reading list. So I feel sort of vindicated (yes, I am taking another's accomplishment and using it for personal gain).
Lit is the third memoir by Karr (I think--I am by no means an expert on her work). I know Liar's Club traversed much richer narrative ground, detailing her childhood rape when she was seven. There are allusions to LC (I have not read the other yet, Cherry), which because I am writing a second memoir I pay close attention to; it is interesting to see how Karr overlaps her life. Here the "story" is her marriage to "Warren," but the few pages that have garnered the most attention are the ones pertaining to "David," who is apparently the recently dead David Foster Wallace, who I know has his legion of supporters, though I found Infinite Jest unreadable. Karr and Wallace had had a brief affair, and there are "some" who blame her for his suicide, which I know nothing about, and don't care, frankly. Karr, on the other hand, I do care about. Her storytelling effortless, she moves through fairly worn ground--abusive mother, alcoholism, etc.--but never comes across as whiny, and her prose is crisp and poetic, never bogging down in melodrama. She's funny and irreverent, with dialogue that is both weighty and conversational. Read the damn thing in a few sittings. Gripping.
2.) Nick Flynn, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City
Besides having just about the best title ever, the book possesses a killer premise. Flynn is working in a homeless shelter. When his father walks in one night.
Jonathan Flynn is an alcoholic wannabe writer, whose whole life is a quest to publish his masterpiece, The Button Man, which may or may not even be written. Later when Nick finally gets a hold of a copy, the manuscript proves to be mostly notes and gibberish, with flashes of brilliance.
What propels Bullshit Night is its non-linear structure. Nick Flynn bounces around with his prose, because he is bouncing around in his life. There is a mirror present throughout the memoir, a cautionary tale of who Nick could end up being. He is his father's son, after all, and like Jonathan is subject to fits of addiction, depression, isolation, and...madness, which is always chirping off his shoulder.
Flynn writes like Hemingway--succinct piercing jabs to the heart.