Before Anne Lammott laid bare her journey to faith, before Glennon Melton told tales of a good girl gone bad and good again, and before Jeannette Walls spied her mother homeless on the streets of NYC, Mary Karr paved the way with her haunting and brilliant memoir The Liars’ Club.
If you have a family, any kind of family at all, and you haven’t read this book, you need to close your browser right now and go read it. Actually, hold on a second. What I want to tell you is time sensitive and since that book has been a bestseller for twenty years, it can wait five minutes.
The Liars’ Club begins with a mystery, the mystery of a half-remembered memory, which is, of course, how all real memory begins. From there, Mary Karr tells the story of her very particular family, living in East Texas in the 1960s. But here’s the kicker: somehow magically she is also telling the story of your family, living wherever and whenever you happened to grow up. Of course the details are different. No matter. Karr paints a portrait that is at once so vivid yet so transparent that you can lay it over your own experience like a slide and watch the two images merge and sway. As Karr says, “A dysfunctional family is a family with more than one person in it.”
How does she do it? Well, she shines a little light on that in her most recent book, The Art of Memoir. But, if you act fast, you can ask herself this weekend.
Guys, this is REALLY exciting. See, in addition to The Liars’ Club, Mary Karr has written two other memoirs as well as several books of poetry. And.. and.. and… she’s released an album. Now, before you get all yeah, yeah, poets always think songwriting will be easy, let me tell you this is not that kind of album. Mary wrote the songs in collaboration with Rodney Crowell, a Grammy Award winning musician, and they were recorded by the likes of Emmy Lou Harris, Norah Jones, and Lucinda Williams. I nearly fell off the couch when I saw this pop up on The Porch’s website. Which brings me to a confession.
I’ve been a total ingrate.
I’ve been writing this blog for a year and I haven’t once told you about The Porch Writer’s Collective. That’s kinda like posting all of your photos from Disney World and not mentioning that your trip was provided by the Make a Wish Foundation. This blog wouldn’t exist without The Porch.
So what is it? Okay, I’m gonna try… Imagine a house with a large wraparound porch. A wide plank painted floor, ceiling fans, pitchers of sweet tea and sangria, a screen door knocking gently, and dozens of wicker chairs loaded with cushions perfectly broken-in by sun and age. In every one of those chairs is a writer. Some of the writers are young, some old, some beginners, some well published. Now, imagine walking up the steps onto that porch and having everyone scoot over and pat the cushion next to her, inviting you to sit. That’s The Porch. That’s how it feels.
In practice, The Porch is an organization that supports writers and the literary arts through classes, workshops, readings, contests, writing-as-performance-art events, and even parties. Because writers need friends too. They do youth outreach, and promote collaboration among writers and other artists. They offer retreats and feedback and encouragement and inspiration and they manage to do it without being at all egotistical or exclusive or even socially awkward which is kind of a trick because, writers.
If you’ve ever even thought about writing, even if you’re absolutely sure that you’d suck at it and bring shame not just upon yourself but also your entire family and maybe even your high school English teacher, I urge you to check out an event or a workshop at The Porch. In fact, this weekend’s event (click here for tickets) would be a great choice. It’s not often you get a chance to meet a literary master, listen to great music, drink wine, eat wonderful food, and support a group that is not only at the forefront of Nashville’s literary scene, but also always willing to scoot over and make room for you.
As they say, “Come sit a spell and write with us.”