Friday, March 3, 2023

Sparkling through memoir

"When I got sober, I thought giving up was saying goodbye to all the fun and all the sparkle, and it turned out to be just the opposite. That's when the sparkle started for me."
I ran across that quote from Mary Karr and felt inspired. Whenever I hear of a friend giving up drinking, I pass on that quote. I assumed it would be found in Karr's 2009 memoir Lit about getting sober, but after reading its 386 pages, well, I'm still looking for it.

To write a worthwhile memoir, one strips down one's self and goes raw — and you gotta be funny, chief. I think that's what makes Karr such a pro and literary wizard. She's got the right blend of humor and hardcore seriousness; you probably can't have one without the other.

Good writing is music. Right? Rat-a-tat-tat, it's about the rhythm and flow of life with the written word guiding the beat instead of bass and drums. I'm not sure there is any memoirist better than maestro Karr, whose written three memoirs and the prescriptive The Art of the Memoir (2015).

I just finished reading Lit, and I definitely recommend it. It's not perfect and think it could be shorter, but so many passages truly affected me. I relate to the book on many levels.

Memoir, in general, is a difficult genre to pull off because it can fall into a self-indulgent trap. How could it not? Sure, that happens with Lit, but so what?

Karr's colloquial, blunt yet elevated language, her unique phraseology is such a blend of Texas, literature and brutal honesty that it's a style I love. If her hard-talking ways aren't enough, her hard-core content is. She describes her drunken lifestyle and horribly difficult path to sobriety in ways that are wildly creative, yet ringing with truth.
The entire book was solid, but for me, it picked up when she was getting — or at least trying to get — sober. I think I relate to it because as I get older, I know my life is better without drinking. I'm officially a social drinker, and I've cut down dramatically.

I also relate to Lit because, like Karr, I used to consider myself an agnostic, and the way in which she relates to God is shockingly similar to me. She ends up becoming Catholic, of all things, and in a sense, she frames her sobriety as an either-or choice. You either drink and don't believe in God, or you get sober and believe. I resist that logic, but it turns out to be the truth for her.

Throughout the book, I ran across many little things that stick with me. I remember her referring to life as "a blessed aberration." Love that. She writes: "Mostly I've thought of life as my right and death as an unfair aberration, but inverting the formula is no less valid. Life is a blessed aberration, a gift, and death isn't my business yet. I wonder aloud how many hours I've squandered fearing death."

I also respond to Karr's overwhelming feelings when she becomes a mom. Her description of giving birth is priceless, by the way, and even though I'm a dad, I can relate to her feelings as a new mom. Sometimes as a parent, and especially before I married my beautiful wife Dina, I often felt alone raising my daughters. Is it universal that parents feel overwhelmed and/or alone at some point, or is that just me and Mary Karr's deal?

In a discussion with sober folks, one of them tells Karr not to worry, that she isn't alone. She has God. She should picture herself lying in bed held by two giant hands. Gosh, I just find that image so darn comforting.

Karr's sponsor, Joan the Bone, is quite memorable, and so much about getting sober rings true. For individuals who've stopped drinking or have tried, I've learned that it may be a big deal for that person, but besides close loved ones, no one else cares.

I'll never forget Karr's explanation about mixing up pleasure and joy, and, honestly, I think this is where drinkers and users go wrong. They confuse pleasure and joy. While pleasure is fleeting and comes from external sources, joy is more sustainable and comes from within.

Although there may be some passages that seem unnecessarily lengthy or not key to the main story in Lit, I must say the book is both a pleasure and a joy.

1 comment:

  1. You have beautiful daughters and you have always been a positive force as their father. And I feel grateful and blessed that I saw a lot of caring and love since they were babies.♥️♥️