Mary Karr — Memoirs on Creative Process and Finding Gifts in the Suffering | The Tim Ferriss Show | Transcription
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Hello boys and girls, ladies and germs. This is Tim Ferriss and welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferriss Show. My guest today is Mary Carr @MaryCarrLit on Twitter. She is the author of three award-winning best-selling memoirs, The Liars Club, Cherry, and Lit. She's also the author of The Art of Memoir, one of my absolute favorites, which lays bare her own process as she breaks down the craft of memoir. And Tropic of Squalor, her latest volume of poetry. A Guggenheim Fellow in Poetry, Carr has won pushcart prizes for both verse and essays. Other grants include the Whiting Award, Penn-Martha Albrand Award, and a Radcliffe Bunting Institute Fellowship. Carr is also a Peck Professor of Literature at Syracuse University. You can find her online at marycarr.com, on Twitter @MaryCarrLit. This episode is brought to you by ShipStation. The holiday season is fast approaching and we know that people will be buying more stuff online than ever before. All of these trends to e-commerce have been accelerated due to COVID and much more. If you're an e-commerce seller, are you ready to meet the demands of a record-breaking online shopping season? Be ready with ShipStation. ShipStation.com is the fastest, easiest, and most affordable way to manage and ship your orders. In just a few clicks, you're managing orders, printing out discounted shipping labels, and getting your products out fast. Happier holidays for you and your customers. ShipStation takes the hassle out of holiday shipping. No matter where you're selling, on Amazon, Etsy, your website via Shopify, or other platforms, ShipStation brings all of your orders into one simple interface. And ShipStation works with all of the major carriers, USPS, FedEx, UPS, even international. You can compare and choose the best shipping solution every time, and you can access the same postage discounts that are usually reserved for large Fortune 500 companies. It's no wonder that ShipStation is the number one choice of online sellers. And right now, my listeners, that's you guys, can try ShipStation free for 60 days when you use offer code TIM. Just go to the homepage, ShipStation.com, click on the microphone at the top of the homepage and type in TIM, T-I-M, that's it. Go to ShipStation.com, then enter offer code TIM. ShipStation.com, make ship happen. This podcast episode is brought to you by Helix Sleep. Sleep is super important to me. In the last few years, I've come to conclude it is the end all, be all. That all good things, good mood, good performance, good everything, seem to stem from good sleep. So I've tried a lot to optimize it. I've tried pills and potions, all sorts of different mattresses, you name it. And for the last few years, I've been sleeping on a Helix Midnight Luxe mattress. I also have one in the guest bedroom and feedback from friends has always been fantastic. It's something that they comment on. Helix Sleep has a quiz, takes about two minutes to complete, that matches your body type and sleep preferences to the perfect mattress for you. With Helix, there's a specific mattress for each and every body. That is your body, also your taste. So let's say you sleep on your side in like a super soft bed, no problem. Or if you're a back sleeper who likes a mattress that's as firm as a rock, they've got a mattress for you too. Helix was selected as the number one best overall mattress pick of 2020 by GQ Magazine, Wired, Apartment Therapy, and many others. Just go to helixsleep.com/tim, take their two minute sleep quiz, and they'll match you to a customized mattress that will give you the best sleep of your life. They have a 10 year warranty and you get to try it out for 100 nights risk free. They'll even pick it up from you if you don't love it. And now my dear listeners, Helix is offering up to $200 off of all mattress orders and two free pillows at helixsleep.com/tim. These are not cheap pillows either, so getting two for free is an upgraded deal. So that's up to $200 off and two free pillows at helixsleep.com/tim. That's helix, H-E-L-I-X, sleep.com/tim for up to $200 off. So check it out one more time. That's helixsleep.com/tim. At this altitude, I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Can I ask you a personal question? No, what is the name of that time? What if I did the opposite? I'm a cybernetic organism living tissue over metal entoskeleton. The Tim Ferriss Show. Mary, welcome to the show.
Profile And Journey Of Mary'S Writing Career
Meet Mary and hear about her childhood in Texas. (04:39)
Hey Tim, thanks for having me. And I appreciate you putting me at ease when I mentioned that I have copious notes in front of me. That's usually an indication that I am nervous. Not you. You do this all the time. You're going to kill it. It's going to go great. I'm convinced. And thank you. And you reassured me by saying I make really good waffles. That's what I do. I'm like a nonna. I'm like a nonna. You've got to think of me as a nonna out here. Podcastville. Well, let's rewind the clock as a first step in Podcastville and maybe we can talk about nonnas in the family lineage of sorts. And I want to talk about, or have you speak to, a guy redoing your mother's kitchen and holding up a tile. Could you perhaps elaborate on that please? Oh yeah, yeah. Right after my first memoir was published, we were having my mother's kitchen retiled. My sister and I were there and the tile dude prides off a tile and he holds it up and it has a little round toilet. And he looks at my little fluffy haired, gray haired mother and says, "Miss Carr, this looks like a bullet hole." And my sister says, "Mom, isn't that where you shot at daddy?" And she says, "No, that's where I shot at Larry. Over there is where I shot at your daddy." So people ask me why I wanted to be a memoirist. I'm like, "Why would you make stuff up when that's who your mother is?" So for those who have no context, I'd like to provide a bit more context. Where was this kitchen? Or where is this kitchen for that matter? This kitchen is in Southeast Texas. It's a town that I write about to protect the mayor and the school principal and the people who didn't sign off on what I said about them. I call it Leechfield. But it's really east of Port Arthur, Texas, a small town in East Texas. I call it the Ringworm Belt. Which I've also heard you describe as a swampy town. So moisture, humidity, ringworm. As a former wrestler, I can say those things combine to produce ringworms. Yes, exactly. Yes, no, that's it. And industrial, like a lot of oil refineries all around. So not Paris in the '20s, I guess is the way I would put it. Now, I'm going to hop around like Memento the movie. If I must, and I must because that is my way. And you've written extensively about your childhood. You had, in many respects, an extremely difficult, painful childhood and will probably unwind some of that. Now, you've written extensively about it, and you've also mentioned about writing memoirs, and if this is a misquote, please call me out. Quote, "I've said it's hard. Here's how hard. Everybody I know who wades deep enough into memories' waters drowns a little." And certainly in your book, you paint a high resolution picture of just how painful that can be. And certainly an element might be catharsis, but it is painful.
The catalyst for writing and publishing for Mary (07:44)
And I would love for you to speak to the catalyst for beginning to publish this type of work. Write and then publish this type of work. The publishing is nothing compared to the writing, I think. Publishing for me was great because they gave me money, and I didn't have any. So that was good. But yeah, I think I had a flame thrower on my ass. Can I say ass on your show? You can say ass. Not only are three-letter words allowed, four-letter are allowed as well. Oh, there we go. You know, I was a weird little kid, and I was just-- My mother was capital and nervous and married seven times and twice to my daddy. And both my parents drank hard. It was Texas. Everybody was armed. And we were a loud, combative house. So I loved my parents. I mean, that's what I should say. I don't think anybody who's read anything I've written about them would challenge that. But it was not a safe childhood. And yes, it had its fair share of blows. I mean, I always-- Look, I was born in the richest country in the world. My skin color is something the whole country privileges. I'm a college professor. I grew up skinny, and my teeth came in relatively straight, and I have a lot of advantages. So whatever I went through, a lot of people-- And people I grew up with and loved had it way worse and didn't make it. So I think I was haunted. I was a haunted little girl. I tried to kill myself when I was a kid, when I was still in grade school. I took a bunch of aspirin. It said "pain relief," and I thought, "Okay, this is what I want." And so I didn't have a choice. I was, in some ways, not having a choice was a lucky thing because I went into therapy very early. I managed to get-- After leaving school without a diploma, I managed to weasel my way into college and had a really kind professor, and his wife took me under their wing and urged me to go into therapy when I was 19. So I was sitting in rooms talking to codependent social workers starting when I was a kid, and all of that helped. But I guess I've been really blessed with a lot of outside help. I'm a big fan of the mental health professional and the librarians and English teachers and those kind souls you meet along the way. So you have kind souls that you meet in person.
How Mary weaseled her way into coal (10:12)
You mentioned a few, and I want to talk more about weaseling into college in a few minutes, but I've read a lot about your reading, if that makes sense. Yeah, I read a lot, yeah. Some might envision in their minds the childhood you described as a family of illiterates. Nobody picked up anything other than People magazine, but that was not the case. No, the huge advantage, yeah. Describe that a little bit, and also, if I could tag on an additional piece of that question. I've heard you describe finding and reading poetry as eucharistic, and I would love for you to just speak to that as well. Yeah, I started reading poetry when I was a little girl, and reading is socially sanctioned disassociation. They won't let you drink or gee's heroin when you're a little kid, but you can disappear down a valley of Winnie the Pooh or Charlotte's Web. In some ways, the poets I read, I think poetry really captured me early, and my mother, who was a painter, had gone to art school in New York and was enormously well read. There were books all over my house in a place for the nearest bookstore. The bookstores in my town sold Bibles as big as station wagons and little dashboard icons, but there wasn't a lot of literature to buy. But I found a home in the little library. It was a three-block walk from my house, and I could disappear down the snowy valley of a book, and I was somewhere else. So poetry saved my life. My best friends were poets. I think the way people worship saints and have crosses blessed, I felt that way. If you think about the idea of the Eucharist, we weren't Catholic. We were atheists. My father was a union organizer and said, "Church is a trick on poor people to get their money away from them." My mother was a kind of Marxist lady who was very smart and just a little bit of a loose cannon, so we were not churchy in the Bible Belt. When you read a poem, you put it in the meat of your body. I mean, you're a body person. I'm a body person. I feel like you take somebody else's suffering into you, and it changes you. It transforms you. I had this idea of being a poet starting when I was five or six years old that I wanted to be a poet. It was the strangest thing because there were no poets around. No one I knew had ever met a poet. What was the feeling that elicited that desire? Was it just the tangible brilliance in some type of wordplay? Was it a kinesthetic reaction to the aesthetics of certain poets? What was it that produced that desire? You said it better than I could, Tim. You win.
You shut up about it very early, the purpose of art. (13:27)
I mean, it's not a joke that I used the Riverside Shakespeare as a booster seat. That's literally what happened. When I had to reach the table, I sat on this giant edition of Shakespeare my mother had that was very water-stained. It was a book that I read very early, and I started memorizing not Shakespeare poems, but the speeches from Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth and Richard III. I would memorize these speeches and say them to my hungover mother. She liked it. I got her attention that way. To say she was not nurturing, I mean, Lady Macbeth is probably not nurturing the way my mother was not nurturing. Her disinterest in being a mother was profound. Let's just put it that way. She once said to me early on when I was getting sober, she was supposed to watch my little boy who was then a toddler when I went to an AA meeting. I came back one day and she said, "I can't keep him. I was gone for an hour and a half." She said, "I just don't do kids." I was so mad. I said, "Mother, you had four children. What do you mean you don't do kids? You don't cook, you don't clean, you haven't had a job in 40 years. What exactly do you bring to the party?" She thought for a minute and she said, "I'm a lot of fun to be with. I forgot to do anything for any other living human being, but I am fun to be with," which was not untrue. I guess I had an aesthetic sense. She played music, she played opera, she played blues. Janis Joplin grew up in my hometown, or rather I grew up in her hometown since she was older. Her brother would be in my high school carpool, so there was a lot of music I listened to. I think poetry was part of that, the form, the shape. You know what it felt like, Tim? I felt less lonely. I was a lonely person. I would read these poems and I felt like someone understands me. Someone knows what it feels like to occupy this body. I remember trying to tell other little kids in my neighborhood about it, about poems that I liked. There's an E.E. Cummings poem I once tried to tell some girls about in my school. "It's just spring and the world is mud luscious and the little lame balloon man whistles far and wee. Eddie and Bill come running and it's spring and the world is a puddle wonderful. The goat-footed balloon man whistles far and wee," something like that. I can't even remember it, but it's so long ago. That's pretty good for not remembering. I can remember little bits of it. I remember these girls in my school just going, "What are you talking about? That doesn't make any sense." I'm like, "What about it doesn't make any sense? It's about it being spring." She's like, "Well, what is the mud luscious? That's not even a word." I'm like, "No, it's muddy and luscious and delicious." It's like, "How is mud delicious?" I'm like, "No, y'all aren't getting it." I thought they were messing with me. It seemed so obvious to me how great this was. I learned to shut up about it very early by third, fourth grade. I learned just don't. You like this stuff. Nobody else. Your mother likes it. Your sister likes it. Your daddy likes it. Nobody else is going to like it. You shut up. One expression that I think was in the Art of Memoir, I've read it in other interviews. Again, I'm probably going to paraphrase here, but that poetry should disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. Yes, I wish that were my line. Isn't that a great line? It's so good. Where is that from or do you recall where you learned it? Yes, I know vaguely where it's from, but I can't remember the guy's name. You can Google it. We'll find it. It's early 20th century, maybe 1920s to 1950 journalist guy. I'm sorry I don't cite him. I wish I could take credit for it. All art should disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed and all therapy should and most foods. It's not a bad goal to shoot poor at the beginning of a day.
College details with Charles Bronson. (17:56)
How did you weasel into college? How did I weasel into college? If you could flashback because I would imagine that there are some listeners like me who are just in their mind's eye seeing this little girl sitting on Shakespeare and out of focus behind her head in the same kitchen are bullet holes in the tile, imagining the experience and the experiences, although truly you endured some horrific, horrific things, but wondering how does someone in that position get into college, especially when they're missing, at least based on some of my homework, for instance, 87 days of school in the sixth grade, things like this. How on earth does someone get into college? Was it your wielding of words and an essay that just unlocked it? Was it something else? I won an essay contest when I was in high school. I remember. I think it was from the National Council of Teachers of English. I had some professors. Actually, my mother had gone back to graduate school and got me a recommendation from this teacher of Chinese history who felt me up, sexually assaulted me in his office and then wrote me a recommendation. So maybe that helped. Actually, what I think helped when I look back on it was I opposed the Vietnam War and I wore black armbands on moratorium day. That's the kind of thing that where I grew up, I remember my coach, the football coach, pinning me up physically, like pinning me up against the lockers by the front of my shirt and holding me against the lockers and threatening me, essentially, to take my black armband off. So I did things like I didn't stand up for the American flag. I mean, I don't know. I thought I was Colin Kaepernick or something. It didn't win me any friends. Let me just say that. But I later found out when I got to my school, and I had to have a lot of jobs to go there because it was a private school. It was McAllister College. It's a very good school. I later found out that the assistant principal of my high school who had thrown me out a lot for things like my skirt was too short, one time he threw me out for not having a bra on, and I said, "What makes you think I don't have a bra on?" Then he called him, the gym teacher, to look under my shirt and confirm. In fact, I didn't have a bra. So I was just a pain in his ass. I later found out that he called McAllister and told these people in the admissions office that I was a bad citizen, that I wouldn't stand up for the Pledge of Allegiance and stuff. Well, they hear this old redneck assistant principal, and they hear about this little girl who's doing this, and they think, "She sounds great!" She's perfect. She's perfect. So I actually think my misbehavior that got me in so much trouble and made him hate me so much, I once had an algebra teacher reveal to me, "He really is after you. You're not paranoid. He wants you out of here." So I actually think – I don't know how I got in. I don't know how I got in. It was clearly a mistake. I made a D in art my senior year, and my mother was a painter. So all I had to do was slap art on something, and I would have gotten a B. I couldn't handle the pressure. It was too hard. I don't know how I got to college. But once I got to college, I've got to say, I really – well, everybody else was complaining about their parents and the – I don't know, that you weren't supposed to smoke pot in your room or whatever they were mad about. I was like, "This is great!" All these people read books, and they'll talk to you about them. I made straight A's, and I got a scholarship, and it was just shocking to me that I might succeed at something.
The unique recipe that helped Terrance break his D pattern. (21:56)
No. Mm. What about the environment? Aside from people who read books and are willing to listen, if it was the environment, maybe there are other variables led to the straight A's. Was it being outside of your home environment? What was the recipe that contributed to that conversion of sorts from D for defiant to straight A? Maybe you were still defiant, but you got straight A's. I wasn't defiant. I wanted to please people. I mean, I think I had a lot of jobs. I had one of those hairnet-wearing jobs at the food service where I had to go in at like 4 in the morning and cook scrambled eggs and wash dishes. I think in some ways, I had to organize my time, but I had been living with a bunch of drug dealers before I went to college out in Southern California. We moved out there initially. We lived in cars and stuff. A couple of us were slinging dope, mostly pot and psychedelics, although one guy had robbed a drug store. I was hitchhiking one day from Laguna Beach to San Clemente where my friends were surfing. I got picked up by a guy who really scared me. I thought he was going to rape me. I had to jump out on the side of the road. It's interesting because there were six of us who lived in that house when I left home. Of the six, four went to jail and two of those were dead before they were 20. Only me and one other guy who's still my best friend, Dooney, wound up getting sober. We both kind of made it "him in construction" in Southern California and me doing whatever it is that I'm supposed to be doing. I was scared. I was scared by how dark things that I brought to darkness with me. You get to Southern California from where I grew up and you're like, "Where has all this been?" Everybody's worth a donchard. People's teeth are great and nobody's missing any digits or anything. Everybody looks so amazing and everything's so beautiful. You're like, "God, I've never seen anything like this. Golly!" You would think everything would have been great, but as you know, when you have a lot of trauma growing up, you bring the darkness with you. I had this idea after I was hitchhiking. I got scared. I had to jump out of this. I tried to jump out of this guy's car. It was a Volkswagen that had no back seat and had a bunch of garbage in it. I pulled up on the handle of the door and it just went floppy round and round and round like it was locked and I couldn't get out. The window was open, stuck open, wouldn't go up, wouldn't go down. I stuck my arm out the side of the window and opened it from the outside and jumped out and went down this embankment on the side of the road. I was really scared. You know how those moments of trauma are. I was scared like I had been when I was a little kid and there were bullets flying around my house. I thought, "I know. I'll go to college in Minnesota." I mean, it's just – that was the other thing. Everybody in Minnesota is so damn nice. Have you ever been there? I have. I have. I spent time there. I couldn't. I used to make a joke about my – an unkind joke. I'd say, "If you're not a virgin when you get here, you will be when you leave." It was just – everybody was so damn nice. Oh my God, I had never seen such nice people in my life. Still, I got there and I did extremely well for two years and I won all these prizes. Then I dropped out. I couldn't handle the prosperity. I couldn't handle the success. It took me a while to finally start getting sober, I guess. I guess that was a lot of my problem.
The first day of class in his memoir seminar at Syracuse University. (26:02)
Which we will definitely talk about. I want to dig into that. I also am going to ask you just to plant a seed about how those mentors initially convinced you to go to therapy. But first, I want to bounce around chronologically because from these origins, I've – in the process of doing my homework, read about your graduate seminar at Syracuse described as hyper-selective. You're certainly a writer and poet of great note at this point. Lots of people know who you are. Lots of people love your work. Lots of people love you describing the craft and process that goes into your work. How do you select the students who make it into your graduate seminar or how did you? I mean, I do it. I wish they would just give me a wand and I got to pick all my people. But interestingly, I've been teaching there, gosh, 30 years, something like that. I only teach in the fall and I go and I commute from New York City. So we do it based on the work. We do it solely based on the writing. And some years, George Saunders, my colleague George Saunders has gotten so famous that he attracts a lot of people and have a lot of people who teach there. Arthur Flowers, Juno Diaz has taught there. We have gotten up to 1,200 applications for 12 positions. Just a quick thanks to one of our sponsors and we'll be right back to the show. This episode is brought to you by Wealthfront. Did you know if you missed 10 of the best performing days after the 2008 crisis, you would have missed out on 50%, 5-0% of your returns. Don't miss out on the best days in the market. Stay invested in a long-term automated investment portfolio. Wealthfront pioneered the automated investing movement, sometimes referred to as robo-advising and they currently oversee $20 billion of assets for their clients. Wealthfront can help you diversify your portfolio, minimize fees and lower your taxes. It takes about three minutes to sign up and then Wealthfront will build you a globally diversified portfolio of ETFs based on your risk appetite and manage it for you at an incredibly low cost. Wealthfront software constantly monitors your portfolio day in and day out so you don't have to. They look for opportunities to rebalance and tax loss harvest to lower the amount of taxes you pay on your investment gains. Their newest service is called Autopilot and it can monitor any checking account for excess cash to move into savings or an investment account. They've really thought of a ton. They've checked a lot of boxes. Smart investing should not feel like a rollercoaster ride. Let the professionals do the work for you. Go to Wealthfront.com/Tim and open a Wealthfront investment account today and you'll get your first $5,000 managed for free for life. That's Wealthfront.com/Tim. Wealthfront will automate your investments for the long term and you can get started today at Wealthfront.com/Tim. You end up with these 12 gems of sorted colors and kinds. What is day one, class one? What does that look like? Oh, you're thinking when I teach my memoir class. Yeah, well, I used to do this thing.
An exercise in the act of observation (29:25)
Yeah, that's so funny. I used to do this thing where I would stage a fight in my class with someone who was opposite for me. Let's say my colleague, George Saunders, who is just the sweetest guy. I can't even tell you. I was in the car with him once and there was a bug on his shirt and I was like, "George, there's a big beetle on your shirt." He'd be like, "Well, he has to be somewhere." I'd be like, "Kill it!" He's like this Tibetan Buddhist with this amazing practice, just the sweetest guy. George comes in and starts arguing with me that my classroom is in fact his classroom. This is in front of all the students. In front of all the students. For them, it's the first day of school and it's like having their parents fight. I script it so that I say only nice conciliatory things. I back up. He walks forward. He's bigger than I am. Then it ends with him throwing the papers up and telling me to go fuck myself or something or telling me to go hang. I don't know if you can say the F word. Can you say the F word? The F word is not only allowed but endorsed since I grew up on Long Island. You're in good company. I feel so much better. Just telling me to go fuck myself. Then we ask the students to write. Let's say there are 17, 18 students in this class, 20, somewhere between 15 and 22. They're all smart and they're all young. They were all incredibly juiced on adrenaline and cortisol because they were scared. It's a public scene and they don't really know each other that well and they don't know us that well. They're all extremely alert. They're hypervigilant. We ask them to write down what happens. Everybody writes something just a little different. Interestingly, people will describe me in very aggressive terms. Even though I'm the one backing up and I'm saying, "Well, I can clear out during the break, George, but I don't understand why you're so upset." He'll say, "You don't understand why I'm so…" I mean, he walks forward and I'm backing up and my head is down and I'm doing every conciliatory gesture I can think of. People will say, "She stood her ground like a bulldog," or, "She had military strength facing off against him." One year, I did it with my student assistant who was an undergraduate, just a beautiful young track star, Betsy. Betsy just threw her papers up in the air and was screeching at me. "Well, she's this kid and here I am, this professor with fancy clothes in a position of power." People would, in that class of undergraduates, assume that I had done horrible things to Betsy. In one class, there was a young woman. One of the ruses I set up is that I leave my cell phone on so I can start to argue with George before he comes in and then ask the students, "How often did he call? How long between each call?" and ask them to guess things or remember things about time. He calls three times. Some people will say he called once. Some people four times. All those details are very influenced by who they are. The young woman with sickle cell anemia will have this enormous compassion for me because I'll say, "I have to leave my phone on. I'm waiting for medical results." She'll assume I'm waiting to hear if I have some awful ailment.
The commonplace book (33:11)
She sees George as a complete beast and me as this woman, perhaps ill, who dragged herself to class. While everybody else in the class thinks, "What a diva. She's answering her phone in the middle of class. She can't wait an hour to get medical results? I mean, come on." There are always people in class who have those perfect memories. I remember one kid. Often they're musicians. This kid was a jazz saxophone player who was very famous in Brooklyn for giving these amazing house parties. I think he made a living giving house parties for like, I don't know, years. This kid had this amazing memory. We had a script and he remembered the script exactly. He remembered what George had on. He remembered where we stood. He remembered that I backed up every step. When he wrote it, he wrote it exactly as it happened. He didn't miss anything. He said, "George was the aggressor, but I wonder what she'd done to make him act that way." I guess the purpose of the exercise is for you to realize that you remember through a filter of who you are. Memory is not a computer. It's not a perfect storage system. Obviously, even these fine minds of these young people, very alert and paying attention in their first class and wanting to get everything right and do well, miss-remember. What I want them to think about is how they are not just perceiving things, but beaming the world, the landscape into being with whoever they are inside. It's important as a writer of anything to realize what kind of filters you're strapping on that prevents you from seeing what's going on. I would imagine that is an opening exercise that a lot of your students remember, speaking of memory, for a very, very long time. What other exercises or aspects of your teaching, it could be in any setting, do many of your students remember or have stick out for them? Would you imagine? I think a lot of practice things. I think it's important as a writer or as in anything to develop habits. I mean, you talk about this for our body, for our work week. You've developed a lot of practices in your life to shape your life so that you're operating to constantly be growing and developing. Things like keeping a commonplace book, just keeping a notebook where you write down beautiful pieces of language. What is a commonplace book? That is where you capture the beautiful turns of phrase that you encounter? Yeah, things you read. You might copy poems. You might copy something you overheard on the street. There was a guy standing on my street. This is like a couple of years ago when I first moved into this apartment, screaming, "Murder or suicide," at the top of his lungs. Everybody was walking around the street, walking around him. It was early in the morning, and I walked up to him and I said, "Excuse me, sir." He was screaming, "Murder or suicide, murder or suicide." I went up to him and said, "Sir, isn't there like a third alternative? Isn't there a door number three?" That little encounter I wrote down, but things I overheard… Hold on. That's too much of a cliffhanger. What happened when you said that? Well, you know what was beautiful? I was going in to get a pastry for a friend of mine who was visiting from London. I got him one. I thought I'd bring him a pastry when I came out. But when I walked into the bakery, he was looking at the sky with a curious look. He was thinking, "Isn't there a door number three? Isn't there another… Gosh, there might just be a door number three." But mostly what I write down are pieces of language or things, poems that I read, paragraphs, anything, so that you're just constantly copying in longhand. You can't type it. You're constantly copying things that are beautiful. You're constantly guzzling beauty. You're guzzling the beautiful language so that you're steeped in it like a fruitcake in good brandy. Is the value of the commonplace book and using it this way in the writing down, or do you have some approach to review or using that later? You know, I occasionally… I mean, the great thing about them is that if you get on an airplane or you're going along, you sort of know what you're reading. But I've also been doing this. A poet named Stanley Kunitz, who was a poet laureate in like 1978 or something, told me to do this. So I've been doing this since 1978. Also, every time I give a lecture, I put the quotes I use in the lecture on index cards. And so I have like… You know, I've been teaching for 40 years. I mean, I have 40 years of index cards with quotes on them. It's oddly satisfying. I don't know what it is. But it's just like a sit-up you do. It's like a push-up you do. It's something you don't really… I often don't look back on. I think it's in the writing down. I think it's in the practice. And it's kind of… It's like an altar. You're making an altar for yourself every day.
You know, I wanted to… Might as well use this as a segue. Altar. Could you speak to the importance or utility of prayer in your life? Yeah. I mean, I'm a prayer. I was an atheist my whole life. I got sober in 1989. And believe me, I drank my share. I did my part. I remember some guy I went to high school with telling me… When my mother was still alive, I was home. And he says, "You don't even drink anymore. You don't even smoke pot." I was like, "No, Jack O'Lantern, I don't do that stuff anymore." It's like, "Why?" I was like, "Well, it just didn't agree with me." You know, it made me do things I didn't want to do. And he says, "I just think you're a quitter. I just think you're a quitter. I just think you gave up. I mean, what is smoking pot going to do? You're never going to like rob anybody's television or anything." I said, "Well, that's true. That's true enough, Jack O'Lantern. But you have had this job pumping gas since the 11th grade." Please tell me this guy's name was actually Jack O'Lantern. His name was Jack. We called him Jack O'Lantern because of a sad tooth thing he had going on. And because we were not ones to stand on ceremony. And he said, "You have had this job since the 11th grade, and you're 50 years old, and you have an ambition deficit disorder by my yardstick." No, but he would say, Jack O'Lantern, he'd say, "Don't call me that no more." I'm like, "What do you want me to call you? That's your name, dude. That's been your name since you were 15. That's your name." What does prayer look like for you? What is praying? Well, I think it started off… I think poems are my first prayers. The ones that I read, like I said, I felt less lonely. So I started praying not out of any virtue. I didn't believe in God. I had no religious training whatsoever. When I was a little girl, people would talk about Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. I thought they were kidding. I thought, "They don't really believe this horseshit." I mean, I figured out pretty early on, by the time I was like six or seven, people were serious that they prayed when people weren't looking at them. I couldn't believe it. It was shocking to me. And Daddy would say, "Well, folks are ignorant. You know what you're going to do." So I had not a religious bone in my body, but I did notice when I tried to stop drinking that I couldn't. I tried to stop drinking for two or three years. I tried by myself, and I tried drinking only beer, and I tried drinking only alone. I tried drinking only with other people, and I tried drinking only wine. I tried drinking with food. I tried drinking on weekends. Somehow I had crossed some line where I just couldn't stop drinking. I went to get help, and I went to sat in church basements, and I hated everybody I saw who was sober. I just hated them. They just seemed like the guys selling incense at the airport. I just didn't like them. They just didn't look fun. They were so nice, too. It was like getting to Minnesota. They're like, "Hi, welcome." I'd be like, "Oh, God, I hate these people." Finally, the last time I drank, the last night I drank, I had gotten together for a couple of days. I'd gotten together for like – it was the longest amount of time sober I'd had since I was 15, and I'd gotten together 90 days sober by going and sitting in church basements and talking to people who were sober. I got a 90-day chip, and then I had to give this talk.
Three months of sobriety (42:53)
I had to give a poetry reading at Harvard. Sorry to interrupt. Just since I don't have much familiarity, when you say 90-day chip, is that some literal token that you were given because you – It looks like a poker chip. You get one the first day you go, and then you get one at 30 days and 60 days and 90 days. This was, for me, an epic accomplishment. There was no time that I ever ran the 100-yard dash in that was as important to me as that 90-day chip. I was happy that I was sober. I felt better. I was sleeping better. My kid was better. Everything was better. I had to give this poetry reading at Harvard College. I was nervous. I'd never given a reading without drinking. The reading went okay. I was teaching at a bunch of places, including one class there. I went out with some of my students. The next thing I know, it's 3 o'clock in the morning, and my car is spinning out on Stor Drive in Boston. I'm going towards this concrete. I somehow didn't crash the car, and I somehow got home. At that point, everybody had been saying, "You've got to get on your knees and pray." There was this great recovering heroin addict, Janice, at this halfway house where I did volunteer work. I drove people to meetings, basically, and would pick people up and drive them to meetings. A lot of disabled people. Janice said, "Just get on your knees." I'm like, "Janice, what kind of God wants me to grovel and go, 'Oh, God, you're so great. Ooh.'"
You dont do it for god, you ahole (44:31)
She said, "You don't do it for God, you asshole," in that Boston accent. "You don't do it for God, you asshole." I'm like, "Well, who am I doing it for?" She's like, "You're doing it for yourself. Just get on your knees. Help me stay sober in the morning. Get on your knees." I say, "Thank you for helping me stay sober." I'd be like, "Okay." I'd get on my knees, "Help me stay sober." At night, I'd say, "Thank you for helping me stay sober." Some weird things started to happen. I mean, sometimes I would literally shoot the finger at the light fixture because I just thought, "I hate this."
Prayer And Spirituality
The loneliness of praying (45:04)
You know what's terrifying about praying? It's the loneliness of it. I always tell people, young women I sponsor, "You show more faith praying when you have never prayed before than any nun." To sit in that silence with all your fears and all your self-doubt is so scary and hard. If you have a big, loud head like I do, and I have a big inner life, and my mind never has anything good to say. It thinks it can kill me and go on living without me. Something started to happen. I would have these moments of quiet. The only way I can describe it is it was south of my neck. It was in the middle of my chest. If I was living my life with my head yammering at me like a chihuahua all day, "Do that. Don't that stupid bitch. Put that down. Pick that up. Go over there." I mean, it was just, "Eat this. Don't eat that. Call him. I hate him." These moments in the middle of my chest would be like this broad expanse of quiet. I remember one particular day our little shitty car broke down. My kid was a toddler. I had to pee. We were on the road. It didn't break down. I had a flat. I didn't have a spare, a working spare. It was rush hour. We were on Memorial Drive. We were trying to get home. I just, in that moment, what I normally would have done, I would have been there throwing the jack around and trying to get the car jacked up and in a state of indignant fury that I didn't believe in God, but I believed that there was fate that had doomed me to misery and that the guy with the Jaguar would always get my parking place right before I pulled in. I believed I had a head that had memorized the bad news and spewed it out all day. I remember that day, the sun was setting. I just got out on the side of the road. I got Dev out of his car seat. The sun was going down. He was looking at me afraid that I was going to be angry. I just sat there. He was hungry. I didn't have anything to eat in the car. I'm sitting there. I said, "Let's just look at the sunset a minute. Then we'll go. We'll walk and we'll get some help." We were just sitting there looking at the sunset and this truck pulls up with these Goomba guys from this 12-step meeting. They have ginger ale. They have a jack. They have a way to tow my car. They give Dev potato chips. It was just like, "All I have to do is just find some space in my body and just wait for a minute." I started to notice things happening when I wasn't bent over the day like a dog over a bone that was about to be stolen. I could just sit there for a moment. I began to get a space in my body and I began to hear not the voice of God. I would have some leanings. I would be thinking, "I should have just killed myself." Literally, this is what I would be saying. I should have killed myself. My husband would marry some nice girl who wore barrettes and my son would have this great mother. His life would be better if I weren't there. I would hear this voice in my head that was like, "You need a sandwich. Why don't you get a sandwich? Why don't you make yourself the biggest sandwich you can make?" I'd be like, "Ooh, great idea." I just started to have these small, good ideas that were not like anything I'd ever heard when I was afraid before. Yeah, then I had all these crazy spiritual experiences. One of the things, I had this great sponsor, Joan the Bone. God, I loved her. She was so great. She was the kind of girl who lived in Alaska and would go to the bar when it was 50 below in a tutu. She was just like a badass. She was a Harvard social theorist too, I've got to tell you. She was just all that. Joan the Bone. Joan the Bone, all that and a bowl of biscuits. Yeah. Sounds like a mobster. What's the origin of the name? Do you have any idea? I just called her that. That was my nickname for her, Joan the Bone.
Whats on your gratitude list (49:50)
I see. I see. Joan the Bone. Joan would tell me things like, I was such an ingrate. She'd say, "You have to make a gratitude list." She'd call me and say, "What's on your gratitude list?" I'd say, "I have all my limbs." She'd say, "No. Okay. Here's what you're going to do. You're going to make a gratitude list every day this month for every letter of the alphabet, and you're going to call me and read it to me." I said, "Shut the fuck up. I'm not going to do that." She's like, "Yes, you are, or else I won't talk to you anymore."
Praying for what you want. (50:19)
I'd be like, "Okay." I just started trying. I just started trying. Instead of sitting there with my arms crossed and my lower lip stuck out and my baseball cap pulled down over my eyes, I just started trying shit that people who were happier than me suggested I should try. It was so simple. I started to get a sense. One of the things I said to her, she said, "You've got to pray for what you want. What are you praying for?" I said, "I pray to stand it, not to kill myself, not to get through the fucking day. That's what I'm praying for." She said, "Okay. Well, you've got to pray for what you want. What do you want?" I said, "I made $9,000 this year. I would like some money, please." She said, "Well, why don't you pray for money?" I'm like, "You can't pray for that." She's like, "Well, why not?" I said, "Okay." I would literally get on my knees in the morning and say, "Keep me sober. I would like some money." I'm not even making this up. I would get on my knees and say, "Thank you for keeping me sober. I would still like some money." Three weeks later after I started, this is a true story and you can look it up. I get a phone call from a guy who says he's from this foundation. He's giving me $35,000 that I'd never applied for or asked for, that somebody just put me up for. I thought it was my friend George playing a trick on me and says, "You know, fuck you, George." I hang the phone up. The guy calls back and he asks me on the speakerphone. You can hear people laughing maniacally. I've never gotten money from prayer again. Then Joe on the phone says, "Well, you must believe that there's some sort of guy." I was like, "No, because they were meeting to give me that prize before I had stopped drinking and started praying." She said, "Jesus Christ." I would also talk to her all the time. I'd say, "How can there be a God? Because look at the Holocaust." She's like, "God didn't do the Holocaust. People did the Holocaust. What are you mad at God for? People did that. God didn't do that. That has nothing to do with God." That's how my prayer life started. It's a bizarre story. Dave: I like bizarre. Ignatian exercises, does that mean anything to you? Yes, yes, I became a Catholic. I do something. I practice a kind of spirituality called Ignatian spirituality.
Ignatian spirituality. (52:44)
When you become a Jesuit, you go away to the Jesuit place, the Jesuit making place. You go to Jesuit school and then they give you these 30-day exercises. The purpose of the exercises is to find God in all things. So, like this election. Just turned around to look at my screen to see if we had a new president. This election, for instance. Just a side note, somebody just sent me a text before we started recording and said the entire country has "electile dysfunction," which I thought was pretty clever. Oh my God. Jesus Christ. Why didn't I think of that? Oh my God, that's so great. That was a clever turn of phrase, yes.
Finding God in all things. (53:31)
Oh my God. No, it really is. So, finding God in all things. Finding God in all things. That means when the car breaks down, instead of thinking your cruel fate has come to hurt you. So, what you do actually, Tim, is in the morning I do a prayer and meditation thing for 20 minutes where I do centering prayer for maybe, I don't know, five, six, seven minutes. Then I read a scripture and I meditate on the scripture and then I have a bunch of people I pray for. I have a list of people I pray for and things I pray for. Then at night I do something called the "examine of conscience," where you, it's not like going over your day and making a list of good things that happened or whatever and then repenting for the bad things. It sounds like that, but it's not that. What it is, is you kind of press play on the recorder of your day. So you think, "I woke up and so what did I do? Where was I? What mindset was I in?" You close your eyes and you try to review your day literally like you're watching a movie. And moments where you see moments of grace or luck or even something, you know, a good sandwich, something yummy to eat, or you're supposed to savor those moments and occupy those moments. And it's a very body-oriented exercise. You're supposed to smell. What do you smell? What do you hear? What do you taste? How do your clothes feel? You're supposed to really recreate that moment in a sensory way and thank God for the grace or the gift of that. And then you kind of press play again and you see moments where you turned away from God or your best self didn't act and you say, "I want to do better next time." Instead of snapping at the robo-call voice, snapping at Siri because she doesn't understand me, I love me for myself alone, to just, "Tomorrow I'd like to be more patient, help me to be more patient." So what it does is it made those moments of gratitude. And I also keep kind of a list or journal of those things and a prayer journal. I don't keep a journal journal, but I keep a daily prayer journal. And I just will kind of highlight some of those things. Like for me today, right now, Steve Kranacki's haircut, which I know he does himself. I don't know. The guy who delivers the big map thing on MSNBC. I just like the guy. I just like him. Every time I see him, I feel like I'm spending the night at my girlfriend's house and he's her nerdy brother who's secretly hot. I had this flash of panic. So I was like, "Oh, fuck. Here's somebody important." I'm not saying he's unimportant, but I'm just saying, "Oh God, here's another guy that I have to pretend I know because I'm on the podcast." No, he's the guy who delivers the darn, what the electoral map says on MSNBC. So if you're a liberal, you're like a nut and you watch this way. Other people watch other things. So he's this really nerdy kind of math goop guy who wears khakis and a clip-on tie and has this really bad haircut. I just have a complete crush on him. I just crush him. I don't even like young men. I don't. I really don't. You have to have some hair coming out of yours for me to want to date you, but this guy just does it for me. I just like him. I just like him. So wait a second. Tie that together for me. Does that have anything to do with the prayer journal? Yes. Or were you just confessing that? Oh, okay. No, no. I have a crush on this guy who's on TV every day and it tickles me to see him. It's kind of a little thrill. It's a little thrill to see him. It really is. It's so stupid. But it's also, it makes me feel like a child. It makes me feel like I'm in junior high school. And so there's something innocent and sweet about it. Also the fact that he's so dorky, I like.
What journaling does for Patsy (57:53)
I just like that. So you have a prayer journal. You have the commonplace journal. Right. Do you have any other journals? No, that's it. Those are the two. And the prayer journal, I don't really, I only write, like actually write and it mostly kind of looks like a list. Do you know what I'm saying? It's mostly like a list of things. Like the lady at my drug store, who, my pharmacist, who, they were all out of the pneumonia vaccine. I get pneumonia a lot. And she went out of her way to call me and say, "I got you the pneumonia. If you can come in right now, that we had a cancellation, I can do that." Just kindnesses, moments of kindness, but also moments of presence and awareness of God. A lot of people feel it in nature. I feel a little bit in Central Park, which is all the nature I have. You're out in— I am currently in Austin, Texas, which is home base for me. Shut the front door. Yeah, I've been here for three years. I live in the Republic of Austin. I love it. It's the Republic of Texas. One of my favorite t-shirts, not everyone's going to get this, but is a shirt with the Texas flag, which says, "Most Likely to Succeed on It," which I quite like. Yes, so I'm in Texas. Although a lot of Texas would argue that I'm not in Texas.
Narrative Structure And Writing Techniques
The Republic of Texas? (59:20)
Of course, yeah, I know, right? Listen, do you have a weapon? If you have a weapon, you belong. I do. Well, God, I'll get good for you. What do you have? Can I ask him? We talk weapons. As far as weapons? Yeah, sure. I have a 7mm Win Mag hunting rifle. I have a Glock 34, which is a 9mm handgun. I know what it is. I know what a 9mm— You kind of know what a 9mm gun is. I'm not explaining it for you. I'm explaining it. Just getting on your knees, not for God, it's for you. I'm explaining it to the listeners. So 9mm Glock 34. I have an M&P 45 and a few other— Do you hunt? —firearms that I don't use much. I hunt, but infrequently. That started in 2012. I always had a very negative association with hunting. I was given my exposure to it. It's kind of a great saying. Yeah, I had a very negative association because I saw very irresponsible hunting on Long Island. In the process of working on the 4-Hour Chef and learning to forage, I felt it was incumbent upon me to hunt if I were to consume animal protein. So I had my first deer hunt with an incredible hunter and conservationist named Steve Rinella. That really completely shifted my lens on how ethical and responsible hunting could be. Now, in Texas, you have the whole spectrum from responsible to machine gunning hogs from helicopters, which I do not partake in. Although people could argue it's an invasive species, et cetera, et cetera. But yes, so I do hunt infrequently. Probably, let's just call it once every year or two. You know, those javelina hogs are fun to shoot. I'm sorry to say it. I'm embarrassed to say it. But I shot a javelina hog. So I'm anti-gun, but pro-hunting. So does that make sense? It does. I'm imagining these kind of backwood kiwis in New Zealand hunting hogs with knives, walking into the woods barefoot, which is a real thing. I know one guy who did that. So you can be pro-hunting while being anti-gun. I think that's possible. No, but I mean, if I were to hunt, I would hunt with a gun. But it's funny. One of my best friends is a young writer named Phil LaMarche, who's one of those guys who stocks his freezer with bow and arrow kill venison. He called me this week and said a very interesting, he'd just killed a deer. He said, "You know, the longer I hunt, the only thing I hate about it is the killing." I think there's a lot of shared sentiment to that by a lot of hunters. Yeah. I mean, the most reverent people I know about the natural world are practicing. Many of them are practicing hunters. True fact. Well, I want to use this to tie a bunch of things together in the most awkward fashion possible because I've been trying to force fit a segue somewhere. So I might as well do it here.
Turning a cat sh*t sandwich into a Texan cup of gold. (01:02:39)
That is to hear your description or explanation of how some of your wordsmithing came to be. Part of what I enjoy so much about your writing is that you have this, let me get this right, time critic Lev Grossman said in his review of Lit, "Karr seems to have been born with the inability to write a dishonest or boring sentence." That's high praise. Now the least boring sentence is for me. God, I wish I could remember it, but you take what seems like this sensitivity to language and poetry to create sentences using cat shit sandwich metaphors and so on, which also seems to me, and maybe this is, you tell me if this is warranted or not, but to be a very kind of Texan thing also. It kind of makes me think of like a trial lawyer in God knows where in Texas, right? Who gets up and just demolishes some slick trial attorney from Los Angeles in a complete mismatch, right? I mean, just dismantle someone with these really clever turns of phrase. Where does that come from or how did that develop in you? Because I do think it is one of your superpowers. Well, I think growing up in Texas, it's a storytelling culture. Texas idiom is poetry as far as I'm concerned. I had two great practitioners. I'm a seventh generation Texan. I'm on my mother's side and fifth generation and my daddy. My daddy was a great barroom storyteller. He was a labor union organizer for the oil, chemical and atomic workers local 1242. He was just funny as a crutch and told these amazing kind of tall tales out of Mark Twain. He also spoke in poetry like he would say, like a woman with an ample behind, he'd say, she has a butt like two bulldogs fighting in a bag. For him, that was a compliment. There was nothing insulting about that. He used to call me, I'm a little skinny thing. He used to call me a gimlet ass. "Poki, you need some tower on that ass. You got you a gimlet ass." I don't even know what that is, but I knew it wasn't good. A little flat butt. Or he would say, "It's raining like a cow pissing on a flat rock." You can scan that, by the way. It's raining like a cow pissing on a flat rock. Wait, what do you mean by scan real quick? What do you mean by that? Shakespeare is iambic pentameter or my first love poem that was ever written to me. I saw you on your horse today. Your eyes like eggs, your hair like hay. That's like, that's iambic pentameter. It's da-da-da-da-da-da. It doesn't matter what it is. You can hear it when I say it, right? That it's raining like a cow pissing on a flat rock. And that you hit that flat rock. It creates, for one thing, it creates a whole landscape in which cows piss on flat rocks and people stand around and marvel. And you go, "My goodness, looky at that." And then you attribute that to the rain. It's a metaphor. It operates way beyond the bounds of propriety. It's not how you talk in church. You're not supposed to talk like this. So the minute you say this and somebody laughs at it, you have them. They're in your boat. They have transgressed by laughing at your joke. Well, Daddy was just the master of a story, but he was also a poetic imagery. I mean, to me, that poetry I grew up, I was steeped in it. My mother, who was an enormous reader, who read everything—Chinese history and Russian novels, and philosophy—and just read everything, was just the master of—I remember when she was dying, she had all these old men who were always trying to marry her, which, why? But she's dying. She's actively dying. And one of these old boyfriends has come to see her at the hospital in Houston. The nurse spends the afternoon and says, "Miss Carr, your husband's here to see you." And she says, "Well, he must look like shit. He's been dead 20 years." And I mean, she just can't stop herself from saying the most horrible thing you've ever thought. And so I think between the two of them and just growing up in Texas, the idiom, the language I grew up with, is epically beautiful. And the need to not be boring when you speak. People will, "I'm a stomping mud hole in your ass."
Need to not swear? (Sort of. Maybe.) Adjust the iambic pentameter. (01:07:41)
That is so much better than, "I'm going to whip your ass." It's just like, yeah, right. My friend Dooney got in a fight once with a guy in a bar, and the guy said—and he told the greatest story about it. It was actually the guy he decided to stab. He went out in his truck and got a knife and came back with like a Swiss Army knife. And he starts chasing this guy who was a state congressman, by the way. I won't tell you his name. But he starts chasing him around this bar, well, to brandish a weapon in a place where alcohol is served as a mandatory, I think, 10-year sentence, some big, you know, it's frowned upon. And he's chasing this guy around, and somebody says to Dooney at one point, "That's a little bitty old knife you got there." And he will notice he don't want to get stabbed by it. Then he runs out, and then we hear the sirens. So here comes the siren, "Woo, woo, woo." Dooney runs out, he gets in his truck, and one of those mall cops, security guys, runs out. And Dooney says, "He stands in front of my truck, in front of my headlights, and he's got a belt buckle that will pick up HBO." And he holds his hands up and goes, "Halt! Halt!" And Dooney just puts it in first gear and hits the guy. I mean, he doesn't hit him hard, but he knocks him down, and then leaves and gets pulled over and is convinced he's going to prison for brandishing this weapon, for trying to hit this guy. But anyway, it turns out he had to call the guy to apologize. The guy's daddy knew Dooney's daddy. And he said, "All he wants you to do is apologize." And Dooney's like, "Apologize? You know, I'll blow the guy. Like are you kidding? I don't want to go to jail. Of course I'll apologize." But here's the punchline of the story, and this is what makes Dooney still my best friend since I was 15. So he calls the guy up, and the guy answers the phone. And Dooney goes, "I am so sorry, man, about last night. I am so sorry." And the guy says, "You almost killed me!" And Dooney says, "Man, I'm so sorry. I didn't know it was you." Don't you want to say that, though, the next time somebody happened? I didn't know it was you. The next time you do some horrible thing. Next time I get in a really stupid argument with my girlfriend, that's what I'm going to use. Don't you want to say, "I didn't know it was you, honey"? I don't know. Only in the state of Texas do you have that story. It's just got all the elements of a Texas story.
Revision. Blech! But also: fantastic. (01:10:18)
How could I not love it down there? I mean, oh my God. Let's talk about revision. Okay, revision. This doesn't have to be serious. I'm a big reviser. You're a big reviser. But you have said, "Anyone who's read a rough draft of anything I write is just shocked at how bad it is." It's terrible. And what does the process look like? I know this is a very… Hopefully, it doesn't sound like a really naïve question because I know that there are many, many aspects to revision. So I'll lead with just a bit. This is from writermag.com. "Carsa takes a hard look at every sentence she writes. Can I make this sentence less boring, more interesting, prettier, more colorful, more true?" So that's a teaser. What does your revision process look like? Because I've read that you threw out something like 1,200 pages. Threw out 1,200 pages of lit. Yeah, finished pages too. That's not draft. And that was written over about, I want to say, five or six years. And I remember when I threw it out. Tim, I was so upset. I had been… Well, first off, they were about to hang me. I was so late. I was like seven years late on a contract.
Undergoing the final edits for The Liars Club (01:11:26)
And so finally, my agent called me and said, "You're going to have to…" I said, "You know what? I will sell my apartment and give the damn money back if they don't shut up and leave me alone. It's just going to take me a minute." So anyway, I'd sent them, I don't know, I'd sent them like 130, 140 pages. And my editor at the time estimated that I'd thrown out 1,200 pages. And let me tell you when she said that they sucked as bad as I thought they sucked. I mean, I knew they sucked when they sent them, which is why I didn't want to send them. I wanted to keep working on them. So I just, I went to bed for like two days. And I watched, you know, Dr. Phil reruns and a lot of cooking shows. And I ordered a lot of curry. I think I had a whole pizza at one point. And slopped around in my bathrobe. And then I called Don DeLillo, who's one of the people I call. It's like, you know, the nuclear button, you know, who's like, just one of the great novelist and who also happens to be a friend of mine. And I said, "Don, I think I'm writing a bad book." He's like, "What are you crying about?" I said, "I think I'm writing a bad book." And he said, "Well, who doesn't?" And I thought about that. And I thought, "God, he's right. Tolstoy's written bad. I mean, people I read, you know, every writer I know has written a bad book." So okay. So okay. So maybe it's just supposed to be a bad book, but it's the book that's standing in line to be written. And I think I got, I became willing to fail. To just say what happened. So basically what it looks like is just clawing through a line at a time or a sentence at a time. I think one example I give in the Art of Memoir is that when I'm, my mother is driving me to college. And I think the sentence I started with was something like, "Mother drove me to college in her yellow station wagon. We stopped every night at the Holiday Inn and got drunk on screwdrivers." I can't remember. Might've said puke and drunk on screwdrivers. I somehow was able to remember being in that car. The thing about my mother's yellow station wagon was that it didn't have an air conditioner. So at that time you could buy an air conditioner that's strapped under the dashboard. Well it would build up condensation. And when she turned right, and I was sitting in the, you know, shotgun, the water in the air conditioner would spill out onto my bare feet. And it was icy, icy cold water. And I remembered that we had stopped and gotten a bushel of peaches in Arkansas. And she was drinking vodka, driving, drinking vodka and orange juice and eating these, watching her eat a peach. You know, when you're 17 years old to watch your mother eat and show any desire for anything is just so horrifying. You just want to die. There's just nothing uglier than watching your mother eat a peach when you're 17. You just think, "My God, woman, shut your mouth. Take a smaller bite. Jesus, it's not going anywhere." You know, but the smell of the peaches and being in the, and suddenly I remembered that I had a copy of A Hundred Years of Solitude that I had got, that was her book, that I had started reading. She said, "Read it aloud to me," and I remembered reading that book and driving. And I remembered the, you know, you grow up around these kind of Texas dirt farms. I mean, there's plenty of corporate farming in the state of Texas, but then you get to the Midwest and it's just so organized. It's just, there aren't the rusted cars in the yard and the refrigerator on the porch. You know, it's these rows and rows of corn and these big cinnamon colored silos. And I remember driving into that landscape up to that college and reading that book and thinking I could be a writer. I somehow was able to remember those details and occupy that body in space and time and remember how disgusted I was by my mother and how terrified I was that I wouldn't do well at school, that I would fail. I've been such a screw up. You know, I'd been arrested the year before with a bunch of kids and there was a bunch of dope and some of them went to jail and I didn't because the judge was a guy who had known my mother when she was a reporter for the local newspaper. And I still remember sitting in, she came to pick me up wearing a leopard, she had leopard skin pajamas. It was July 4th and she had on a beaver coat with a mink collar and those leopard skin pajamas on this hot night in Coons County, Texas. And here sits this judge behind this, this liver spotted judge with these palsied hands and every meal he's ever eaten on his tie when she came to pick me up and he said, "I remember your mother. She was the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen." And she said, "Oh, you old fool." I mean, it was just like, "Oh my God, mother, get me out of here. Sucking up is underrated." So anyway, yeah, I think it's memory. I do an exercise with my... I just did it the other day for a colleague of mine, Dana Spiotta, a wonderful young novelist I teach with. And she's teaching an undergraduate class and I said, "I want to do this right."
A great writing activity (01:17:15)
There are 90 kids in the class. I said, "I want to do this writing exercise." She said, "Well, the writing, it's been uneven." And I said, "Trust me, everyone will write well." And you have them focus on a room they grew up in and to try to occupy the smell, to try to remember a room you were in where your mother's cooking, your grandmother, wherever you had a good meal when you were little, and try to close your eyes and smell that because smell is the most primordial memory and the most emotional memory and it's stored way back in that snake brain hypothalamus we have that is where all the trouble starts. You try to get in that memory and interrogate your body about what you can smell, taste, touch. And finally, what you want, what are you yearning for and what's keeping you from getting it? Maybe it's a bite of the brisket or some of the barbecue or daddy's oysters coming up out of the fryer or what's going to keep you from getting it? It's my big-footed sister who, as daddy said, nothing ever got between her and a bag of groceries. She's going to get all the oysters and I won't get any. And so it's really more about trying to occupy a former self because I think, as you know, just as in trauma, the body remembers. The body also remembers beauty. It also remembers pleasure and love and those other things too. So the body keeps the score. And if you go excavating for these memories, sometimes there are costs associated with that. I've read that while you were working on The Liar's Club that you'd suddenly fall asleep in the middle of the afternoon as if you'd driven all night and you would sob, you'd really suffer.
Facing Trauma And Therapy
Navigating trauma with the help of others. (01:19:04)
What did you do to cope with that pain? And I should just say, you and I were chatting before the recording about trauma a bit and I've recently described some of my childhood sexual abuse. And the podcast that I did related to it didn't seem to exact a horrifying toll, but the process years before of trying to write about it and getting a very, very rough draft brutalized me and just left me paralytic for, God, more than six months in some ways. And I just love to... I'm so sorry. Yeah. Thank you for saying that. And I'm horrified by the experience and also fascinated by it in a way because I don't know why those two things should be so different. And I'd just love to hear you expand a bit on the price that you've paid or your experience with dredging up a lot of these memories or recalling them, putting them down and why writing seems, at least in my experience, to be so different from some other forms of expressing these things. Well, I mean, because you're alone. You're alone. I mean, that's for me where the prayer and the God comes in. I do have a sense now that I didn't have back in the day. By the time I started writing Liar's Club, how old was I? I don't know, 35. I've been in therapy for 16 years. And I'd also had a prayer practice for... A meditation and prayer practice for some years. I hadn't converted. I wasn't a Christian. I was a Catholic, but I was about to become Catholic. And I was very active in recovery programs and I had a sponsor. And I also had, based on all of those efforts, I had done a lot of the processing and recovery. I had flown down to Texas when I was 23 years old and got my mother drunk on margaritas and told her, "You tried to kill me with a butcher knife and it's not because I was a bad kid and it ruined my life. What the hell was wrong with you? What was going on?" I had done a lot of that work before. And I tell people when they tell me they wanna write a memoir about some horrible stretch of childhood or some awful period of trauma, maybe they don't. Maybe they don't right now. So I think I had a sense of... When I was drinking, my idea of medicating myself or anesthetizing myself, that was all I knew how to do. That was what my parents told me to do. That was all they knew how to do, was try to drink it away. My daddy was in the Battle of the Bulge. He went in at Normandy and he came out at Buchenwald. That's plenty of trauma. Plus being married to my mother would have been simple. There's only one person with a weapon as opposed to the Nazis. So yeah, I think I'm a big fan of a hot bath. I'm a big fan of nutritious food. I'm a big fan of cardio. And now I'm 65, I don't do five dance classes a week, but I get up in the morning and I walk four miles. And then I do Pilates three or four times a week and I take a dance class a couple of times a week. All those things keep me in my body. And when I'm in a lot of pain, I take care of myself. When I was drinking, I felt like I had this screaming baby that I was holding and I was screaming at it all the time to shut up. So yeah, I think I still have, even writing anything now, I find very, I'm not dealing with anything like that. But I'm also, I'm so much happier now than I've ever been in my life. I mean, I'm 65 years old. I've never been so happy in my life. I've never been less good looking, had less social power, had any of the things that you would think would make me happy, joyous, and free. And I'm just, I wake up every day really feeling lucky to be alive and feeling loved and feeling like not every day. I mean, I wake up plenty of days and I'm mad as an old stump pissing it, but most of my days are pretty lit up and it's a lifetime of practice. So I just, I tell a lot of my students, my young students, want to write about sexual assault or trauma of various kinds. Well maybe, why don't you get some treatment for this first? Why don't you treat your heart first, treat your body, treat yourself with a lot of care and see if this is what you want to write about right now. Something you can write about maybe five years from now or something. What advice would you give yourself about therapy if you were talking to your 19 or 20 year old self and how were you first convinced to go to therapy?
19 year-old Mary Karr gets convinced of therapy. (01:24:49)
I remember you mentioning that long ago. You know, I didn't have to be convinced. I mean, here's the other thing. You did? Yeah, no, and there weren't a lot of people saying, "Gee, I wish you'd stop drinking." I mean, I led a pretty isolated existence the way a lot of people who grew up the way I grew up do. I mean, my idea of telling somebody how I felt, I remember right before I stopped drinking, I remember I was teaching, well, sort of all over the academic ghetto around Boston, but I remember specifically one day at Tufts, I was copying something for a class and I had dropped my kid off like vomiting out the side of the car before I dropped him off at daycare. I mean, and then I drove to Tufts and I was Xeroxing something and somebody said, "How you doing, Mary?" And I was like, "You know, I want to blow my fucking brains out." And that was my idea of telling somebody how I felt, you know, making a glib sort of awkward, socially awkward statement as somebody I hardly knew. And I've been in therapy then for a while, but I was also drinking every day everything I could get my meds on. So I don't know. What is good therapy to you? Because therapy is a term that's extremely broad. That's kind of like saying medicine, right?
Therapy that has worked the best for Tig (01:26:11)
Yeah, exactly. There are so many different specialties. What has proven to be good therapy for you? You know, I think it totally depends on the person. I mean, the best therapist I ever had, I think, I mean, for me, the difference in therapy and recovery, I think in therapy, I'm the baby and they're the mommy. And that model sort of, especially when I first started, I just felt like I needed a lot of nurturing. And I had great therapists, you know, my first therapist, when I look back on things he said and did was insane. He would have been fired. He told me to go down after he'd been seeing me nine months and confront my homicidal suicidal mother about all this horrible stuff she'd done to me. And I did it. And he said, "I won't see you until you do it." Wow. I mean, nobody's ever done it. I'm looking for a pound. I know. I mean, I look back on it. I was like, he was crazy. Nobody's ever... I had a great therapist when my son was a baby who was a psychologist, PhD psychologist, and who really helped me try to learn how to be a mother when I hadn't had one. And all the, you know, feelings that come up around what you didn't get when you were a child, when you have a child, the protection and stuff. It's funny. My son watches me with his daughter now and just says, "I don't know."
Parenting her granddaughter (01:27:42)
You know, sort of gives me nothing but a stroke. And I said, "Let me just tell you, I was not this good with you. Like I was crazy about you and I loved you, but I didn't have what I have now that I have with her that's just... It's not even... I don't even break a sweat going in there. I can do this stuff." It's funny. I was in prosperity. I babysit one or two days a week. I was in Prospect Park this week and I had taken her across the park in a stroller and a thunderstorm broke out. I mean, pouring rain. And she is the... I've never shared DNA with somebody this good-natured as this baby. This baby coos, smiles, laughs, never cries. I mean, sleeps, eats, is just the best-natured kid. I used to babysit in high school and college, so I've taken care of a lot of babies and she's just the easiest kid. I get across the thing, it's pouring rain, and she starts screaming crying like she's being beaten. And I take her out of the stroller and I hold her and she calms down. I go to put her back in the stroller and she just starts screaming crying again. Well, it's two miles across a muddy field in the pouring rain and I've got a stroller and a bunch of crap and I've got this 27-pound unit, screaming unit. And I just had no problem doing it. And when I was 40 years old, 35 years old, it would have been like being beaten with a hose. And I just thought, "You know what? Daddy was in the battle of the bulge. This is not that hard." I just had the physical energy, even at my age, that I didn't know I had to do it. And I got back to the house and I went to fold up the stroller. There was four inches of freezing water in the bottom of the stroller that I've been putting her in. And she was soaked through to her skin. Yeah, she was perfectly reasonable to be... Now I understand.
What you have to do to walk a baby in the pouring rain (01:29:45)
I could have just emptied it out and put her in the stroller and wrapped her up in a blanket. I didn't know what it was, but I just thought, "Well, I'll get her home and it'll be fine." I didn't feel like, "Oh my God, oh my God, I'm a terrible mother and I'm going to wind up trying to stab her with a butcher knife," which is how I felt when my kid was that age. I didn't know that I wasn't going to be my mother. I didn't know that. So scary. That is scary, yeah, super scary. Many forms and fashions to wear the world like a loose garment. I'd love to know if you agree or disagree because based on my reading... I wouldn't say that. Okay, so at your first confession... Absolutely not, no.
Rethinking a well-worn adage: wear the world like a loose garment (01:30:35)
Priest said to you, "Wear the world like a loose garment." What does that mean to you? Well, I think it's not... The problem isn't whatever your mind is telling you the problem is. The problem is the fear. For me, the solution to fear is curiosity and presence. I can't be terrified and curious at the same time. When I was walking the baby across the field, just all I was was physically uncomfortable. I was thinking, "Gee, can I shove this thing and hold her mousse and get everything and get all this stuff? How am I going to do..." I went crossways across the mud fields. I'm shoving the stroller and carrying her. I didn't know physically if I could do it. I was dubious. I thought, "Maybe I can't do this." But all I had to do was do it. I thought, "Well, if I get tired, I'll sit down. It'll rain on me a minute, then I'll get up and go again." That's what we'll do. But I don't know. I wouldn't say... It's not my nature to be... Here's the way I put it. I tell people it's like I have a trickney. It's like most of the time, I walk fine, I run fine, I can squat more than my body weight and do advanced Pilates for an hour and 10 minutes. I'm tough as a boot. But there are days that when... There are days that I don't feel that way or there are moments where I get my knee goes out and I fall on the ground. All I have to do is honor those moments. All I have to do is... I have a heating pad. I have a weighted blanket. My kids have a pit bull I'll bring to stay with me. Well, an idiot is my little comfort animal. I call people. I still have a sponsor. I still have a therapist I don't talk to all the time, but I didn't have to be convinced to go into therapy. I knew I needed it. But when I first started it, as you know, it was just so damn painful. And I just... For those of your listeners out there, if you're having a hard time, I just wanna say it's like you lance a boil and the infection's draining off. And if you can just get by that, it's gonna tell you that it's endless, but it's not endless.
Life Observations And Musings
Pain as a boil needing to be lanced (01:32:48)
There's a bottom to it. Did you ever smoke? You never did. I was never a smoker, no. Yeah, you're just such a jock. You're such a specimen. You're such a specimen, Tim. Well, we're all specimens. It depends on how we look on the autopsy table. But I was born premature, so I have respiratory issues on my left lung. And that does also... That was part of it. So I had a lot of breathing issues growing up to begin with. And secondly, sports saved me. So sports kept me out of a lot of trouble. You know, I was good at sports, and then I quit when I was like... I quit. And I'm much more of a jock now than I was then. You know, I wanted to ask you... Why did you ask about smoking? I was gonna ask you about smoking because when you quit smoking, there's a phenomenon that happens.
Groundhogs Day cravings (01:33:51)
It's also when you quit drinking, but somehow it's more intense when you smoke. You'll have a craving for a cigarette, and the craving is as intense as it was the first day you quit. It's as overpowering. But if you just keep note of how long the craving lasts and how many of them there are, they're as intense, but they're not as long and as frequent. So it's the same thing about suffering when you first start therapy or you first lance that boil and you're unearthing some of the painful things you grew up with. It's as intense the first day, and you just feel like, "Oh my God, I'm in the burn ward, and I just got snatched out of the fire, and every ounce of me hurts, and I wanna run screaming down the street like my hair's on fire." And it just won't last as long as it did the first time. And so... Yes. For your listeners, if you're just looking at hard things that you grew up with or you're trying to quit smoking, trying to quit drinking, trying to recover from trauma, I promise you, I will send you money if this is not true, that it will get easier. It's not linear, and there will be those days when it's as painful as the first day and you'll think, "But I'm no better than I was," but you are. It doesn't feel that way.
Living in Austin, and how Tom almost worked for Trilogy (01:35:24)
Yeah, excellent advice. And just a few more questions. I'm having so much fun, I could go forever, but I... You got a lot to do, dude. Do I though? I don't know. I mean, it's... Where in Austin do you live? Well, I spend most of my time downtown for recording and then live in the burbs outside of that. I love it. I love it in Austin. It's beautiful. And expect to be here for quite some time. I wanted to move here right after college. I didn't get the job and there was only one. Were those morons? They screwed up. Yeah. Well, possibly. I also think that that could have been in everyone's best interest. Really? I think I make it a quite terrible employee in most circumstances. Me too. But at the time, and I didn't expect this to lead here, but at the time that I was not given the green light to get an offer from Trilogy Software way back in the day, it seemed like a death blow. This seemed like the end of the world because I had put a lot of eggs in that basket.
When being struck down means being redirected (01:36:30)
I didn't want to do anything that was recruiting on campus really otherwise. And I listened to and watched your Syracuse University commencement speech. Oh, that's so nice of you. And then I read a transcript. I think this is from the speech, unless it was mistranscribed. But here's the paragraph. Almost every time I was super afraid, it was of the wrong thing. Stuff that first looked like the worst, most humiliating thing that could ever happen almost always led me to something extraordinary and very fine. My question is, could you give us an example of that that comes to mind? It could be something humiliating. It could be a favorite failure. But anything that… I'll tell you one of the… When I first did a moral inventory and recovery that they encourage you to do, I had a lot of resentments against God. When you say "they," this is in a 12-step program? Yeah. And Joan Le Bon, you know… Joan Le Bon, right. One of the things I really resented God for, my son, who was just this little beautiful blonde hair, blue-eyed, in a tank of a boy, a natural kind of athlete. When he was little, he was sick all the time. I mean, he would get a cold and he would get these sinus infections. His fever would go to like 105. We'd rush him to Children's Hospital in Boston. It was terrifying. We're always rushing to emergency rooms because his fever was so bleeding high. And just so terrifying. And so, I never slept. I never slept. And I was depressed. I was probably postpartumly depressed. And I was drinking. By then, I had decided drinking would help me take care of a sick child. Great idea, Mir. It's like the bad mom in the after-school special. And so, what? And I remember… So when it came time to do Ignatian spiritual exercises, you're trying to find God in all things. Where is God in that? Where is God in a sick baby? I'll tell you a secret. When I actually looked at my life and the decisions I was making, I would have kept drinking. If I'd had one of those Playboy babies that sleeps 12 hours a night and never is sick and just coos and cuddles. And I would have kept drinking. If I'd had my granddaughter, who's like the easiest 12-hour night sleeper, eats everything you give her, laughs at everything you do, I would have kept drinking. I could not physically drink the way a real alcoholic needs to drink and take care of a kid who was sick all the time. Couldn't do it. And work and make a living. I couldn't do all those things. It's too hard. And so I don't think God sent pathogens into my infant son's body. I don't know how any of this works. But when I ask where God is in this, that physical, my own physical discomfort forced me to get sober. So my sister died this summer very suddenly of pancreatic cancer in less than a week. I'm sorry. Yeah, I'm sorry too. You know, we were not in touch. We had a terrible childhood and we had not been really in touch for seven years. And that was my choice. And I remember saying to my therapist, "Isn't it going to be terrible when she dies?" She said, "Yeah, it's going to be terrible anyway." And although it's horrible that she's dead, there's nothing. I feel my love for her. I don't have to defend myself against my love for her the way I did when we were estranged. I can cherish and remember all the times we were there for each other, all the ages we were in each other's lives. And yeah, I would give anything for her to be alive, but I still think our not being in touch was the best thing for both of us. I don't regret that. And there's this amazing gift to me of being in touch now with her son and her husband and her stepchildren. And I would give anything if she were alive. But there are gifts in this suffering that are real spiritual gifts. I practice when things happen that I find very disappointing. My son had a film coming out, his first feature film coming out at Tribeca Film Festival. And it's a global pandemic. And so there is no Tribeca Film Festival. And he's raised somehow all this money and put years worth of work in and moved heaven and earth. And you know what? The film's being released. He's got a great distribution deal. He just won best director at Fright Fest. And it's unfolding just the way it needs to unfold. It's getting curious about where the light is, just being curious about where the light is. And getting curious about where the light is and the all powerful reframe. And it is really incredible what can happen, as you said, when you really get curious.
What young men need to hear. (01:42:22)
I have to say this on air, Tim, because I have to say it. I have so many young people who come to me about sexual assault. So many young men who have come to me, my students, young writers, young poets. And your being open about this on this podcast has just been such a gift to all these young men. Thank you. So good for you. So good for you. So a horrible thing that happened to you that's being used to help give a lot of people hope and it's going to prompt a lot of healing. I hope so. And I've seen a lot come out of the woodwork. And it's been simultaneously, and I know you've experienced this certainly, it's been simultaneously appalling, rewarding, and brutal in a way. It's all of those things. There's a lot of pain and beauty in it. And I'll just mention that of my closest male friends, and there really aren't that many. I don't collect friends like little porcelain teacups or whatever people collect. I have a fairly small-ish circle. And I would say 30% of my closest male friends reached out to me after that podcast to describe their own experiences with sexual abuse that I know nothing about. And these are people I've known for a very long time. So I hope there's healing. Of course there is. We're living. Look, we're not curled up in the back wards of mental institutions. And we both could be. Yeah, very true. Very true. Well, Mary, we're going to talk again. And I want to ask one more question, which sometimes is a dead end. And I'll own that if it is. But we'll see where it goes.
The "billboard" question. (01:44:19)
The question is, if you could put anything on a billboard, metaphorically speaking, to reach billions of people, however many you want, a word, a phrase, a question, a quote, a poem, anything, what might you put on that billboard? Oh my God, that's so hardcore. Jesus. Oh my God. That is really...God, that's a little... It's aggressive. It's aggressive. It's hardcore. It's aggressive. It really is. It's like a pack of javelin hogs running out of the bushes at me. What could I...what would I put? And it doesn't have to be the one and only. This could just be the first billboard. The first billboard. Put down that gun. You need a sandwich. You need a sandwich and a hot bath. No, I know what I would put. I would put 90% of what's wrong with you could be cured with a hot bath. That's what I'd put. I love it. I love that. Well, Mary, this has been so much fun. Been a hoot. I've really, really enjoyed this. People can find you at your website, marycar.com. That's Mary, K-A-R-R.com, Twitter @MaryCarLit. Is there anything else you'd like to say, suggest, ask, request of the listeners? Let's all heal. Let's all heal as a country, no matter how different we think we are. We're all suffering souls, and we all want to heal this riven country of ours. That's what I'm wishing for all of us. Wishing everybody a lot of love and light today and a big, nice cigar. Here, here. We're here. Get curious.
Closure And Recommendations
Get curious. Look for the light. Thank you, Mary, for everybody. All right, you take care. You go do you. I will. To everybody listening, we'll link to everything that we've mentioned in the show notes at Tim.Vlog/podcast. Until next time, thanks for listening.
Five-Bullet Friday (01:46:24)
Hey, guys. This is Tim again. Just a few more things before you take off. Number one, this is Five Bullet Friday. Do you want to get a short email from me? Would you enjoy getting a short email from me every Friday that provides a little morsel of fun before the weekend? Five Bullet Friday is a very short email where I share the coolest things I've found or that I've been pondering over the week. That could include favorite new albums that I've discovered. It could include gizmos and gadgets and all sorts of weird shit that I've somehow dug up in the world of the esoteric as I do. It could include favorite articles that I've read and that I've shared with my close friends, for instance. It's very short. Just a little tiny bite of goodness before you head off for the weekend. If you want to receive that, check it out. Just go to 4hourworkweek.com. That's 4hourworkweek.com all spelled out. Just drop in your email and you will get the very next one. If you sign up, I hope you enjoy it.
Helix Sleep (01:47:26)
This podcast episode is brought to you by Helix Sleep. Sleep is super important to me. In the last few years, I've come to conclude it is the end all be all. But all good things, good mood, good performance, good everything seem to stem from good sleep. So I've tried a lot to optimize it. I've tried pills and potions, all sorts of different mattresses, you name it. And for the last few years, I've been sleeping on a Helix Midnight Luxe mattress. I also have one in the guest bedroom and feedback from friends has always been fantastic. It's something that they comment on. Helix Sleep has a quiz, takes about two minutes to complete, that matches your body type and sleep preferences to a perfect mattress for you. With Helix, there's a specific mattress for each and every body. That is your body, also your taste. So let's say you sleep on your side in like a super soft bed, no problem. Or if you're a back sleeper who likes a mattress that's as firm as a rock, they've got a mattress for you too. Helix was selected as the number one best overall mattress pick of 2020 by GQ Magazine, Wired, Apartment Therapy, and many others. Just go to helixsleep.com/tim, take their two minute sleep quiz, and they'll match you to a customized mattress that will give you the best sleep of your life. They have a 10 year warranty and you get to try it out for 100 nights risk free. They'll even pick it up from you if you don't love it. And now my dear listeners, Helix is offering up to $200 off of all mattress orders and two free pillows at helixsleep.com/tim. These are not cheap pillows either, so getting two for free is an upgraded deal. So that's up to $200 off and two free pillows at helixsleep.com/tim. That's helix, H-E-L-I-X, sleep.com/tim for up to $200 off. So check it out one more time. Helix, H-E-L-I-X, sleep.com/tim.
Outro: Sponsors Highlight
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