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Mary Karr: David Foster Wallace and I kept each other alive

In today’s saturated memoir market, Mary Karr’s still sizzle. The Liars' Club, detailing her tough Texan upbringing—complete with her mother’s gun-waving schizophrenic breakdown and her father’s alcoholic buddies, who gave the book its title—burst onto the scene in 1995. Some say the book spawned a whole bloody genre of ‘90s memoirs featuring addiction as a leading theme, with the likes of Hornbacher, Flynn and Frey following in her wake.

Karr, 58, has been sober for 24 years. She has published four volumes of poetry—most recently Sinners Welcome—as well as two other memoirs: 2000’s Cherry, which dealt with her adolescence, and 2009’s bestseller Lit, which chronicles her recovery from alcoholism. Readers see Karr slowly moving from desolation, trepidation and booze-fueled mania to a mysterious new openness and peace—due partly to an unlikely-seeming conversion to Catholicism. Still, she’s maintained her acerbic wit, outlaw sensibility and lightning-tongued, sailor-mouthed interrogation of anyone in spitting distance.

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