Shivering Eyeballs

Jessica Olin

  • Cherry by Mary Karr
    Picador, 276 pp, £14.00, June 2001, ISBN 0 330 48575 X

‘I am not very successful as a little girl,’ Mary Karr wrote in her diary when she was 11. ‘When I grow up, I will probably be a mess.’ This is how Cherry, the second instalment in her account of her early life, begins. The first, The Liars’ Club, was published in 1995. Now it is the summer before she enters sixth grade; she has no friends, her parents are out at work and her older sister is busy being a blonde goddess. She reads To Kill a Mockingbird three times in one week, imagining herself as the ‘puckish Scout’, and writes earnest, graceless poems in a black leather sketchbook she’s taken from her mother’s garage studio. She also dreams of becoming ‘a hardworking woman with a pure soul. Not just a perfumed woman on the outside’, and plots a career for herself that seems outlandish given her environment but which, unbelievably, she will eventually achieve: ‘to write half poetry and half autobiography’.

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