Recovering Catholics

It's time to get over it!

BY: Dan Wakefield


Mary Karr is the author of "The Liar's Club," a memoir that set a new literary standard when it was published five years ago, not only for the frankness of its personal revelations about growing up in a wildly dysfunctional family but also for the eloquence and artistry of its prose.

Karr proved that the daily life dilemmas of ordinary people can rise to the level of literature when written with poetic precision (she is also a practicing poet) and an ear for the lyrical music of vernacular language. She was recently on a promotion tour for her new book, a memoir of virginity and its loss, bursting with the sexual street language of East Texas adolescence and appropriately titled "Cherry."

It was not the raw language or accounts of sexual gropings and couplings that seemed to shock--and, in some cases, disturb--a book fair audience Karr addressed in Miami, but rather the confession that she was a Roman Catholic.

Karr mentioned her religious belief in passing during a question-and-answer period following her reading. The mention prompted a woman in the audience to express "surprise" and evident confusion. I had a sense there were others in the audience who felt the same way, not just because frank language and sexual revelation seem out of keeping with the Vatican's tradition of censorship, but also because of the unspoken secular assumption that intellectuals (allegedly smart people) such as Ms. Karr surely could not believe in God, or even if they did, would be too much at odds with the social and political positions of the Catholic Church to be part of it.

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