Welcome to My Chew Toy


The book’s mostly shaped for the general reader, and while I hope it can help such a human hone an affection for memoir as a form, I really hope to prompt some reflection about the reader’s own divided selves and ever-morphing past. For everybody has a past, and every past spawns fierce and fiery emotions about what it means. Nobody can be autonomous in making choices today unless she grasps how she’s being internally yanked around by stuff that came before. So this book’s mainly for that person with an inner life big as Lake Superior and a passion for the watery element of memory. Maybe this book will give you scuba fins and a face mask and more oxygen for your travels.

~ Mary Karr, Preface | Welcome to My Chew Toy. The Art of Memoir (HarperCollins. 2015)

Mary Karr’s new book was released yesterday. I highly recommend her autobiographical series: The Liar’s Club, Cherry, and Lit: A Memoir)

Image: Oregonlive.com


  1. even a blow-up raft can be helpful at times.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting interview with her in New York magazine last week. I always wonder tho whether it is the actual history that pulls us under, or the potential fiction we have created around the memory. Perhaps that’s why I prefer the memoir v autobiography. Our history is so much of our own design…the facts, so few…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Think of that family meal we’ve all had when each person’s colliding version of an event ricochets off every other. You weren’t even born when that happened . At such a meal, I may defend my own account like a wolf her turf, but lying awake later, I’ll often feel the creeping suspicion I’m wrong. Unless you’re a doubter and a worrier, a nail-biter, an apologizer, a rethinker, then memoir may not be your playpen. That’s the quality I’ve found most consistently in those life-story writers I’ve met. Truth is not their enemy. It’s the bannister they grab for when feeling around on the dark cellar stairs. It’s the solution.

      ~ Mary Karr, The Art of Memoir (HarperCollins. 2015)

      Liked by 2 people

    • This confidence of mine in most memoirs’ veracity is viewed as gullible, I know. Of course, there’s artifice to the relationship between any writer and her reader. Memoir done right is an art, a made thing. It’s not just raw reportage flung splat on the page. Most morally ominous: from the second you choose one event over another, you’re shaping the past’s meaning. Plus, memoir uses novelistic devices like cobbling together dialogue you failed to record at the time. To concoct a distinctive voice, you often have to do a poet’s lapidary work. And the good ones reward study. You’re making an experience for a reader , a show that conjures your past— inside and out— with enough lucidity that a reader gets way more than just the brief flash of titillation. You owe a long journey, and most of all, you owe all the truth you can wheedle out of yourself. So while it is a shaped experience, the best ones come from the soul of a human unit oddly compelled to root out the past’s truth for his own deeply felt reasons.

      ~ Mary Karr, The Art of Memoir (HarperCollins. 2015)

      Liked by 1 person

    • I missed the NY Magazine interview, thanks for the heads up. And your thoughts on memoirs align squarely with Ms. Karr’s.


  3. Charging up my submarine.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have it on order…………….can’t wait to read it…………..

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This made me sizzle. “I’m doing that.”

    Liked by 1 person

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