For me, the solution to fear is curiosity and presence. I can’t be terrified and curious at the same time.
— Mary Karr
Mary Karr (@marykarrlit) is the author of three award-winning, bestselling memoirs: The Liars’ Club, Cherry, and Lit. She is also the author of The Art of Memoir, which lays bare her own process as she breaks down the craft of memoir, and Tropic of Squalor, her latest volume of poetry.
A Guggenheim fellow in poetry, Karr has won Pushcart Prizes for both verse and essays. Other grants include the Whiting Award, PEN/Martha Albrand Award, and a Radcliffe/Bunting Institute Fellowship. Karr is also the Peck Professor of Literature at Syracuse University.
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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.
SCROLL BELOW FOR LINKS AND SHOW NOTES…
Want to hear another episode with a writer who isn’t afraid to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable? Listen to my conversation with Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk in which we discuss maintaining surface tension in a story, making people faint with words, the therapeutic application of dangerous writing, cross-cultural explorations of mythology, and much more.
SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE
- Tropic of Squalor: Poems by Mary Karr
- The Liars’ Club: A Memoir by Mary Karr
- Cherry by Mary Karr
- Lit: A Memoir (P.S.) by Mary Karr
- The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr
- Nonna (Grandma) | Daily Italian Words
- East Texas Cities, Towns, and Ghost Towns | East Texas Travel Guide
- Ringworm | CDC
- Memento | Prime Video
- Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
- Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
- Christianity: Eucharist | BBC
- The Riverside Shakespeare by William Shakespeare
- [in Just-] by E. E. Cummings | Poetry Foundation
- The Duty of Newspapers Is to Comfort the Afflicted and to Afflict the Comfortable | Quote Investigator
- To Comfort The Disturbed, and to Disturb the Comfortable: Onward Children of the Sun by Cesar A. Cruz
- When Exactly Did Bansky Say “Art Should Comfort the Disturbed and Disturb the Comfortable?” | Reddit
- Macalester College
- Syracuse University
- How I Teach My Students Not to Trust Their Memories | Mary Karr, the Washington Post
- Difference Between Eidetic Memory and Photographic Memory | Better Help
- The 4 Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman by Timothy Ferriss
- The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss
- Sobriety Coin | Wikipedia
- Mary Karr Thought Her Whiting Award Call Was a Prank and Hung Up | Literary Hub
- What Are the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius? | Loyola Press
- The Jesuit Mission: Seeking God in All Things | Georgetown University
- Electile Dysfunction: The GOP’s Incredible Shrinking Boehner | Slate
- US Results: How Will This Endless Election End? | BBC News
- 99 Questions to Complete Your Examination of Conscience | The Catholic Company
- Steve Kornacki and John King Are the Election Coverage MVPs We Need Right Now | For the Win
- “Most Likely to Secede” | Tim Ferriss, Instagram
- Rifle Build: 7mm Remington Magnum | Guns and Ammo
- Glock 34 | Glock
- M&P 45 M2.0 | Smith & Wesson
- The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life by Timothy Ferriss
- Steven Rinella on Hunting (and Why You Should Care), Reconnecting with Nature, Favorite Trips, and More | The Tim Ferriss Show #470
- Boar Hunting with a Knife is Not for the Faint of Heart | Wide Open Spaces
- ‘Lit’ by Mary Karr: The Top 10 Everything of 2009 | Time
- Raining Like a Cow Pissing on a Flat Rock | Tony Goff
- More Colorful Texas Sayings Than You Can Shake a Stick At | Texas Monthly
- Iambic Pentameter Made Easy | Shakespeare Coach
- Mary Karr Interview: Boss of Memoir | The Writer
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- My Healing Journey After Childhood Abuse (Includes Extensive Resource List) | The Tim Ferriss Show #464
- D-Day: The Allies Invade Europe | The National WWII Museum
- Battle of the Bulge | The US Army
- US Forces Liberate Buchenwald | United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- Why Is Quitting Smoking So Difficult? The Science Behind Addiction | American Lung Association
- Commencement Address by Poet Mary Karr | Syracuse University News
- ‘Honeydew’ Turns Road Trip into Bizarre, Hallucinatory Backwoods Nightmare | Bloody Disgusting
- Mary elaborates on an excellent, real-life illustration of why she became a memoirist sharing her life growing up in what she calls “The Ringworm Belt.” [04:40]
- What does Mary consider to be the catalyst for expressing herself in the way she does and publishing it to the world? [06:59]
- On the role that reading played for young Mary. [10:13]
- What was the feeling that elicited Mary’s desire to become a poet when she was five or six years old — even though she’d never met one? [13:04]
- “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable” seems to be graffiti artist Banksy’s 21st-century adaptation of the Cesar A. Cruz 1997 poem title “To Comfort The Disturbed, and to Disturb the Comfortable: Onward Children of the Sun,” which was apparently modified from humorist Finley Peter Dunne’s 1902 sarcastic media critique that stated: “Th’ newspaper…comforts th’ afflicted, afflicts th’ comfortable.” [17:07]
- As a high school dropout, how did Mary weasel her way into college, and what was it about the environment that turned her from someone who got a D in art her senior year to an A student in college? [17:57]
- How Mary, even after leaving the place where she’d gone through so much trauma, brought the darkness with her wherever she went. [22:22]
- With up to 1,200 applications submitted for 12 positions, how is it decided who gets into Mary’s hyper-selective graduate seminar at Syracuse University? [26:06]
- What does the first day of this class look like, and what is it designed to illustrate about the way we process the memories that build our memoirs? [29:10]
- Another effective, memorable exercise: writing down beautiful pieces of language one might encounter in a commonplace book, and maybe helping others in need keep an eye out for door number three when the first two seem unnecessarily rash. [35:02]
- Having grown up in an atheistic household, what is the importance and utility of prayer in Mary’s life today? What part did it play in helping her maintain sobriety? [39:09]
- Now Catholic, what do the Ignatian exercises mean to Mary? How do they help her remain mindful of the everyday experiences for which she’s grateful — like the feeling she gets from seeing Steve Kornacki delivering election updates on MSNBC? [52:28]
- Obligatory Texas talk about weaponry and hunting. [58:49]
- In what kind of forge did Mary’s unique wordsmithing come to be? [1:02:24]
- On rough drafts, the process of revision, and tapping into past memories for storytelling grist. [1:10:22]
- When dredging up past memories is painful and draining, what does Mary do to cope with it all, and why does writing about it seem to be such a different experience from expressing it in some other way? [1:18:52]
- At 65, why does Mary feel the happiest she’s ever been, and what advice would she give her younger self about therapy? [1:22:34]
- What type of therapy has been most effective for Mary (and what’s been the least)? [1:26:04]
- Mary’s solution to fear, and how getting through an uncomfortable time can be like having a trick knee or trying to quit smoking. [1:30:16]
- We don’t always recognize the gifts we’re given by suffering through disappointing and difficult times until long after the fact. [1:35:37]
- What would Mary’s billboard say? [1:44:19]
- Parting thoughts. [1:45:21]
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