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Mary Karr

Mary Karr, author of The New York Times bestselling memoir “The Liars’ Club,” will speak Feb. 27 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She will also participate in panel discussions before the talk.

As the 2013 Distinguished Writer-in-Residence, Karr will present a free public reading at 7:30 p.m. in the Genome Sciences Building auditorium, 250 Bell Tower Road. Doors will open at 7 p.m. Parking is available in the Bell Tower parking deck, free after 5 p.m.

With the publication of “The Liars’ Club” in 1995, Karr helped revive — some would say reinvented — the confessional memoir, and almost 20 years later, her work is still considered the gold standard.

Karr will participate in free panel discussions on Feb. 25 at 4 p.m.and Feb. 27 at 2 p.m.

The Feb. 25 panel, “Collaborating in the Arts,” will be held in the Donovan Lounge in Greenlaw Hall.

In addition to Karr, panelists include:

  • Joy Goodwin, who writes and produces independent narrative films and television documentaries.
  • Jack Herrick, longtime artistic director of the Tony Award-winning string band The Red Clay Ramblers.
  • Bland Simpson, moderator and creative writing professor, is author of eight books, most of them concerning the Carolina sound country and coast; he has collaborated on eleven musicals, including four with fellow Red Clay Rambler Jack Herrick.

The Feb. 27 panel, “Writing Memoir,”  will also be held in the Donovan Lounge.

In addition to Karr, panelists include:

  • Randall Kenan, UNC creative writing professor and author of A Visitation of Spirits, Walking on Water: Black American Lives at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century, The Fire This Time, and Let the Dead Bury the Dead
  • Rosecrans Baldwin. author of Paris, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down and You Lost Me There
  • Marianne Gingher, moderator, UNC creative writing professor and author of  A Girl’s Life, Adventures in Pen Land, Bobby Rex’s Greatest Hit, and Teen Angel and Other Stories of Wayward Love.

In “The Liars’ Club,” “Cherry,” and “Lit,” Karr created a trilogy of memoirs that follows her from a troubled childhood in Southeast Texas, to her terrifying and sometimes hilarious circus of adolescence and sexual awakening, and finally through her struggles with alcoholism and her conversion to Catholicism.

She has written four volumes of poetry — “Abacus,” “The Devil’s Tour,” “Viper Rum” and “Sinners Welcome”— and her poems appear regularly in such places as Poetry, The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly. Karr’s poetry has been called “passionate, vivid, inventive, unsettling and satisfying.”

Karr also is a recognized songwriter.  In 2011, she teamed up with Rodney Crowell to record the album “Kin,” featuring Roseanne Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Norah Jones and many others.

Karr has received numerous honors and awards for her work, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and a Bunting Fellowship from Radcliffe College. She has won a Pushcart Prize, the PEN/Martha Albrand Award and a Whiting Writer’s Award. She currently teaches creative writing at Syracuse University.

Creative writing professor Marianne Gingher, Bowman and Gordon Gray Professor of English, sums up Karr’s power: “Stylistically lyrical, rambunctious, meditative, intimate, refreshingly pugnacious, self-reflective and urgent, Karr is a literary Pandora, lifting lids on an array of misadventures and travails without flinching. Rather than unleashing despair, her writing dispatches the radiant marvels and insights of a gritty and hopeful survivor.”

Karr’s visit is sponsored by the department of English and comparative literature and the Hibbits Family.

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