Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Book Review: The Liar's Club

I've written before about memoirs and how I love them. Since that post I've read two more memoirs: The Liars' Club by Mary Karr and A Million Little Pieces by James Frey, which I'll review in the next couple of days.

I didn't like The Liars' Club as much as I thought I would, and I think I know why: Karr is a harsh writer. Heck, she survived an unbelievably harsh childhood, so her prose makes sense. I've read reviews that call this a hilarious book, but I didn't find much to laugh at. I've read that her language is lyrical, but I found it brutal and aloof.

Brutal, dark and aloof make sense, though. The memoir tells of Karr's volatile childhood in a nasty East Texas town that was ranked one of the most vile places in America to live. Her father worked hard and drank hard; her mother was depressed and unstable. Karr and her sister were basically left to tend to themselves, although their mother appears to feel responsible for them and their father adores them.

The writing is sometimes choppy. The stories start and then go off on a tangent, with time and place sometimes hard to follow. I don't require a linear story, but too much jumping around without a pattern can be tedious. Basically, I didn't connect with the author. My favorite part--the part that really got to me--was at the end when she finds out the reason for her mother's depression.

But who am I to critique this much-praised book? It's not that I didn't like it at all; I'm glad I read it. But I just think there are much better memoirs out there that deal with similar issues (alcoholism, child neglect, incompetent parents). The Sky Isn't Visible From Here and The Glass Castle are two.


raymond pert said...

I haven't read any of the memoirs you mention here (Humiliation point rack up), but I'm struck by your comment that others found elements of "Liar's Club" funny and you didn't.

I'm struck because I watch a lot of independent films and I'm always thrown for a loop when critics say how funny they found one of these films and I was too busy suffering with a character or thinking seriously about the film's issue to laugh.

I'm a pretty serious guy and I respond to darkness with empathy and in personal stories that are dark, even if comic, I rarely laugh. I'm too busy feeling my darker emotions.

Literary Feline said...

I do hope to read The Liar's Club one of these days. It'll be interesting to see how my thoughts compare to yours.

I did read The Glass Castle and, while I liked it, I wasn't quite as taken by it as many others were.

Tracee said...

As I read your review The Glass Castle popped into my head. I haven't read The Liar's Club. It is in my stack of TBR books and I will get to it some day. It is hard to read books like this at time due to the subject matter, but your review gave me some insight as to what to expect...thanks!

Nicole said...

Thanks for your review. I have the Liar's Club. I feel like I have probably had it on my bookshelf for years at this point. I've just never been able to get past the first few chapters. I don't think I will be in any rush now.

Elysia said...

Good words.