Saturday, January 29, 2011

Wednesday's book report

Presently, I'm reading:

Thrive by Bradnon Brasier
The Secrets of Simplicity by Mary Carlomagno
The Middle Way by the Dali Lama
Getting Over Jack Wagner by Elise Juska

Last week, I finished Lit by Mary Karr. I had read a couple of her other memoirs, The Liar's Club and Cherry and quite enjoyed them. They were about her tumultuous childhood with her bipolar mother and her alcoholic father and all the repercussions in her life. There is something invigorating about reading of the scrappy underdog who does not let the difficult conditions she finds herself in put her down.

Lit is about her adult life. The repercussions of her childhood are still there. But she is no longer the scrappy underdog, but the (sometimes not so) mature adult who had more significant consequences to her poor choices or bad behavior. Including the upbringing of her own child.

Perhaps its because she is so acutely aware of these repercussions that this memoir is much more muted than her other two. Karr, so ready to throw her tormentors to the wolves in her other books (in a funny way, of course) now appears to be walking on eggshells. She is fearful to write ANYTHING the least bit negative about anyone in her life, instead taking all the blame herself. And yet, she seems completely detached from events in her life, reporting on them as if she were an observer.

She was, by her own account, depressed at the time. And any recollection of events during a time of depression, any journal entries written at the time, will, of course, be muted in nature. So maybe this memoir is a brilliant depiction of depression. I'm not sure. It just seemed like I was watching a movie through a gauze handkerchief.

Then, she entered AA. And the book came to life. Suddenly, the passion from her earlier works was there. I started to like this book more.

The most interesting part for me was her resistance to the spiritual aspect of her recovery process. She kept struggling with her belief that she had a choice between being intellectual and being spiritual. Like...she was too smart to believe in a "greater power".

And I have to admit -- I've had the same struggles myself. I've seen some of the dumbest statements ever uttered in the history of mankind made in the name of religion. Which kind of makes me want to rise above the idiocy of it all.

But one thing struck me in this memoir...a scene where her sponsor told her "Don't you see that you can't THINK your problems and your fears away? The more you try to work through them in your head, the more you try to rationalize your way through them, the more power your give to them? Just let them go. Even if you don't believe in a higher power, pretend you do and give your problems over."

Which struck me as very much like something I had read in a yoga journal the week before. And struck me as something to ponder in the week to come.

So even though I hadn't picked up this book for spiritual questions, it lead me there nonetheless.

So I liked it. And I'd recommend it. And I passed it on to a friend (there were some very tender moments in the book between Mary and her father as he declined to a progressive illness. my friend recently lost her father and those moments reminded me of her so much.)

Though if you haven't read any Mary Karr, I'd recommend her other memoirs first, and this one later.

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