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Karr is an energetic, engaged, and wry teacher, and her students are fond of her. That night, she introduced a reading by the poet Charles Simic, a longtime friend. Her loud, hearty laughter at his dry wit could be heard above the ambient noise in the room.

The following day, on our way to the airport, Karr drove me past the house David Foster Wallace once rented in Syracuse. Wallace and Karr were involved for a time; he proposed to her and had her name tattooed on his arm. We also viewed her old house, previously owned by Tobias Wolff. She had painted the wooden porch herself: it was purple. Two days later in Manhattan, where Karr has lived since , she was ready to take questions.

Dressed in a flower-patterned silk shirt and red pants, she slipped off her gold sandals and sat on her white leather couch with her legs tucked beneath her. Her apartment is small, but stylish and efficiently put together; a long desk rests against a wall of built-in bookshelves. I will probably be a mess. Not exactly. The book takes its title from the motley collection of men with whom her father, an oilman, used to drink and tell tales.

Karr has been credited with, and often blamed for, the onslaught of confessional memoirs published during the late nineties. For our final session, last August, we met in a hotel room in Irvine, California.

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Karr had driven up from Phoenix a few days earlier with her older sister, Lecia. We discussed her experiences teaching poetry to prisoners in England, trucking crawfish in Texas, and hanging out in the Minneapolis punk scene. After an hour and a half, Lecia, who is tall and has hair the color of copper, appeared at the door and announced, in the no-nonsense tone that distinguishes her in the books, that it was time for them to leave.

To see these two characters from the memoirs come to life was an eerie reminder of the obstinate grip of the past. Why did you feel a need to document your life? I was divorced and sober and, remarkably enough, employed as a college professor teaching poetry. My dad had died after being paralyzed for five years. My son was thriving. But our story was nonetheless standing in line to be written.

Plus I needed the cake.

Scott Weiland Biographer David Ritz Reflects on Late Singer's Conflicted Life & Their Time Together

In some ways I was resourceful. My son, Dev, and I used to sneak into the pool at the Sheraton. I envisioned some small press might cough up a few thousand bucks after the book was finished. That exceeded my lifetime poetry income.

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But till Ray got the MacArthur, he would still crash in a sleeping bag in my spare room in Somerville when he came to town to read. Being a famous writer was a little like being a famous cocktail waitress—nobody dressed in diamonds. And what did I know about writing a book of prose?


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She drank hard and packed a pistol. When I tested the waters about doing a memoir of the period, she told me, Hell, go for it. Product Details. Inspired by Your Browsing History. Related Articles. Looking for More Great Reads? Download Hi Res. LitFlash The eBooks you want at the lowest prices. Read it Forward Read it first.


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