I have no idea how I have never heard of Mary Karr before. The name of her first memoir, 'The Liar's Club' sounded vaguely familiar to me, but that's all. On Monday Rana asked me if I wanted to go to City Arts & Lectures, after deciding against it, a day later someone in my office offered two free tickets. I take this to mean the universe was just as puzzled as I was that I had never read Mary Karr. Karr and Calvin Trillin were the guests and the topic was memoir. I've read Trillin's articles and know he's smart and interesting, but hearing him talk about his wife Alice made me want to go and find the original New Yorker where the piece that he's now turned into a book first appeared. It was an interesting combination, those two on stage, she's loud, and gritty, spitting thoughts out as soon as they come to her, while Trillin is much more punctuated, and slower with his thoughts. Part of me wanted to just hear her, but both Rana and I agreed it was a nice contrast to see them up there together and they're old friends, so it was pretty cute watching them relate to one another. And to be totally shallow, since I just watched Project Runway (is Jeffrey not going to be able to show his stuff??) she looked totally amazing on stage. The woman came out there with this short black dress and these amazing vertically striped pink and black tights on. She's a tall, thin woman and even if she didn't open her mouth (which I'm guessing is near impossible for her) you could tell just by looking at her she's full of fire. I haven't read a thing of hers, but here's a passage from 'The Liar's Club', can't wait to get my hands on a copy of the book:
All the kids looked up. It was never Mother who called us. Mother rarely even came out in the front yard since Mr. Sharp had told her she was going to hell for drinking beer and breast-feeding me on the porch. 'You could see evil in the crotch of a tree, you old fart,' she was supposed to have said in reply. Since then, it was Daddy who hauled the garbage out front and did any calling home for supper. At the sound of her voice, the kids all started a little the way a herd of antelope on one of those African documentaries will lift their heads from the water hole at the first scent of a lion.
I started running, vaulting the muddy ditches that ran in front of the identical houses. I'd just leapt over one of the squat towers of mud that crawdads left when I saw my grandmother's red Ford wagon parked in front of our house. Our car always arrived from even the shortest trip strewn with candy wrappers and soda bottles and a coffee can sloshing with pee. But when I peeked into the Ford's window, it looked like the old woman had driven clear across the state of Texas with nothing more than a box of pink tissues. Mother was holding the screen door open and shading her eyes as I climbed up onto the concrete porch. Her cheekbones winged out, and her eyes were the flawed green of cracked marbles. She told me that Grandma had cancer and had come to stay with us for a while, but that I shouldn't let on I knew.