BOOKS: WILD CHILD

A POET'S MEMOIR RUMMAGES ENGAGINGLY IN THE FAMILY ATTIC

Train wrecks are marvelously entertaining in retrospect, with a guitar accompaniment. Mary Karr's God-awful childhood in a sulfurous East Texas oil town has the same sort of calamitous appeal. Her rowdy memoir The Liars' Club (Viking; 320 pages; $22.95) takes its title from the ring-tailed bosh passed around among oil workers at the American Legion bar, where her father, the champion liar, took her when she was a tadpole.

But there may be fair warning here that the author is a club member too. Would-be writers cursed with the thin childhood material of loving parents and sensible households may suspect a...

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