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Liars’ Club Author on ‘The Conscience of a Writer’

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Telling the Truth in Poetry and Memoir

Mary Karr, author of the bestselling memoir The Liars’ Club, will explore the challenge of telling the truth in poetry and memoir at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus on March 20, at a public forum on “The Conscience of a Writer.”

DATE:     TUESDAY, MARCH 20
TIME:       6 TO 7:30 P.M.
PLACE:  MCNALLY AMPHITHEATRE
FORDHAM SCHOOL OF LAW
140 W. 62ND ST., NEW YORK, N.Y.

During the controversy over James Frey’s now-discredited memoir, A Million Little Pieces, Karr was an outspoken critic of the notion that the line between memoir and fiction was so blurry as to be unimportant. In nonfiction “there’s a different contract with the reader: you don’t make stuff up,” she wrote in the New York Times. “That’s the cardinal rule James Frey broke.”

Mary Karr

“I fell in love with memoir,” Karr added, “when I read Helen Keller’s in fourth grade; had it turned out she was merely nearsighted, not deaf, blind and mute, my bubble might have popped.”

The forum is sponsored by the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture, and is part of a series of events examining the role of conscience and the public responsibilities of both individuals and institutions. The event will feature Karr reading from her work and in conversation with Brennan O’Donnell, Ph.D., dean of Fordham College at Rose Hill, and professor of English.  The event is free and open to the public, but those planning to attend should RSVP to ReligCulture@fordham.edu or (212) 636-7347.

Karr, a professor of literature at Syracuse University, has published, along with Cherry, another volume of memoir, four collections of poetry, winning numerous prizes and fellowships. Her most recent collection,Sinners Welcome, also contains an essay originally published in Poetry magazine tracing her conversion to Catholicism, in no small measure through poetry.

“Since memory is informed by imagination,” Karr wrote in the Times, “what we write is innately distorted, which undermines any memoir’s ‘accuracy’ in historical terms.”  She insisted, nonetheless, that “writing my own memoirs, I know God is in the truth.”

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