From the moment Mary Karr first walked up to me, at a Christmas party with an intimidating population of acclaimed writers, I wanted to hold onto her like one of those toy koalas with a mighty grip. In her skin-tight shift dress and eyelashes that took over the room ("It's Latisse, honey, that's why I look like Bambi"), Mary exuded a kind of confidence and resolve that made me calmer than an urgently chewed Klonopin. Mary's journey from feral Southern child, witnessing both the best and worst of what parents have to offer, to addicted poet, to single mother and sober woman of God has been well documented in her three electric memoirs (The Liars' Club, Cherry, and [Lit](http://link.lennyletter.com/click/8590583.0/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuYW1hem9uLmNvbS9ncC9wcm9kdWN0LzAwNjA1OTY5OTYvcmVmPWFzX2xpX3RsP2llPVVURjgmdGFnPWxlbm55bGV0dGVyLTIwJmNhbXA9MTc4OSZjcmVhdGl2ZT05MzI1JmxpbmtDb2RlPWFzMiZjcmVhdGl2ZUFTSU49MDA2MDU5Njk5NiZsaW5rSWQ9NGViNWJkNTBmZWE2NmIwY2VlNTJhYjdiZDE5OGM1YmEmc3JjPW5sJm1hZz1MRU4mbGlzdD1ubF9MRU5fbmV3cyZkYXRlPTAxMTMxNw/5672eded1aa312a87f2d6890Bc6e1b981)). But to see it borne out in her day-to-day life is a joy.
Over the course of her adult life, Mary has tirelessly pursued enlightenment and honest, no-holds-barred humanity, even if she does admit to being "a venal bitch who loves to shop for geegaws and make-pretties." But she has never lost the signature peppy aggression and powerful wit that make her such a balm for sore souls.
Mary welcomed me this week into her new apartment, a perfectly appointed one-bedroom that she found after a recent breakup (tip: if you're heartbroken, Mary Karr seems like the ideal person to find you a new spot and to decorate it with playful wallpaper and lacquer accents). Taking a break from her new novel, and having just finished a book of poems, Mary made one of the most casually delicious kale salads I've ever tasted, along with half a loaf of corn bread, and brewed a fresh ginger tea she called "trying to avoid getting fucking sick" tea. Speaking of the F word, in her cabinet I spotted an oversize mug that read simply I'M A BIG FUCKING DEAL. I'm so glad, after everything she's seen, done, and been, that she really seems to know it.
Lena Dunham: So many people I know have been unable to wrap their heads around the mind-set of the people who they think of as the opposing team in this past election, which was Southern and Midwestern white men. You came from a world, and have written memoirs about a world, that probably contains a lot of Trump voters.
Mary Karr: Yeah, all my cousins and people I grew up with voted for Donald Trump. That is correct. But I'm a lefty ho.
LD: You are a lefty ho. Do you feel like your history gives you empathy for the way that Trump voters think, or why they're scared?
MK: Yes, I do. I did a little short thing for The New Yorker called "Donald Trump, Poet" about the vernacular of vitriol and bullying. I grew up in a scrappy little neighborhood. I remember this guy saying to me one time, "Your mother's a whore." He said that based on the fact that my mother was a newspaper reporter and went out at night in the car by herself. I said, "So what? Your nose is flat." I knew to go straight to personal appearance. Part of meditating every day and trying to think about Jesus and stuff like that is about not going to the "So what? Your nose is flat" place.
I've been seeing the language of bullying coming. It's been building in social media and blah, blah, blah, and on Fox News. There's no question. Whether you like Hillary Clinton or not, or Donald Trump, it doesn't matter, you have to admit that he has pushed the boundaries of social propriety. That's what people have liked about him. People who feel dispossessed, who wanted to change. They were voting for change. It's not that they agreed with what he said, but I think they saw it as candor. They saw it as unfiltered. That doesn't offend me at all.