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240Fourth Genre Cherry by Mary Karr Viking Press, 2000 276 pages, cloth, $24.95 I read memoirs to see how other people make sense oftheir Uves. I seek flattering reflections of myself and ready-made models to imitate. I also read memoirs to see how a Ufe can be explained and imagine that my Ufe, too, can be explained and sorted into chapters. Mary Karr's second memoir, Cherry, satisfies aU ofthese requirements and more. Mary Karr makes me think that notjust my Ufe, but anyone's Ufe, can be the basis for a reaUy good book. Karr's recoUections ofher adolescence are part ofthe sex, drugs, and rock and roU coUective consciousness of most Baby Boomers. It's Karr's Ufe in Leechfield,Texas you're reading, but ifyou reached puberty in the middleto -late '60s, it doesn't matter if you've never been to Texas, you'U begin to think you knew Mary Karr. Ifyou were into surfing and acid back then, you might "flash" on the idea that it is actuaUy your life she is describing. She helps this impression along by using the second person, present tense, for almost half ofthe book, beginning when Mary reaches Junior High. A few times you try to explain to certain people—Clarice, for instance— that your Old Self had been falsified, a mere mask tacked over the Real Self, which you only now have guts to reveal. ... In response to this spiel, Clarice looks at you quizzicaUy, saying something like, I love you no matter what you wear, but everybody thinks you act weird. While the book's title makes you think about sexual deflowering, Karr dispenses with her "first time" with the formality and language suitable for a prelate. The deed is accomplished in the safety of her best friend's home, with considerable planning, with as much emotional weight given to the bath towels she spreads under her buttocks, as to the event itself. The book begins with a prologue, on the morning of the day Mary at 17, wiU ride away in a truck loaded with boys and surfboards for Los Angeles. She is leaving home and wants her daddy, who's watching Dialing for Dollars, and her mother, who's reading an art history book, to look up and concentrate on her for one grandiloquent moment. Decisive, antagonistic Mary wants someone to say, "Don't go." Book Reviews241 Karr deftly inserts her adult understanding of this painful memory: "Maybe it's only after your daddy's been dead fifteen years that you create this longing ofyours for him and his denial of it, because it's easier to bear the notion that he rejected you than vice versa." The book ends with an acid-enhanced epiphany she desperately needs to share with her best friend, Meredith: You teU her how aU this led you to unearth the ultimate sentence, the endless resonant snippet oflanguage with implications no one can ignore. Before you actually let Meredith hear it, you bow your head and hear an internal drum roU. You finaUy look up to say, There's no place like home. Karr burrows into your memory bank to reawaken the great ache you had for home just as you were leaving it. This is not the dramatic stuff of The Liar's Club where seven-year-old Mary is raped by a "Nazi boy" nearly knifed by her mother, and forced by her baby sitter to have oral sex. There's a lot less physical pain and pandemonium in Cherry, and a reader looking for a continuation of the perils of poor Mary and her psychotic, alcoholic mother wiU be disappointed. The focus in Karr's second book is not on what other people do to Mary but what Mary does on her own and it's told adroitly and elegantly by a writer who has the maturity and confidence to do it quietly. In the first chapter of Cherry, commingled in one short shirtless bike ride are eleven-year-old Mary's desires to be like the boys she adores, and simultaneously to be courted by them. In The Liar's Club Mary's bike...


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