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131 of 147 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars David Carr turns the gun on himself -- and lives to tell the harrowing tale
"Let's say, for the sake of argument, that a guy threw himself under a crosstown bus and lived to tell the tale," David Carr writes. "Is that a book you'd like to read?"

Good question. Indeed, it's the question that prospective readers of "The Night of the Gun", Carr's warts-and-all memoir, will have to consider --- because this is that book...
Published on July 27, 2008 by Jesse Kornbluth

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52 of 59 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A looooonnnnng night
The concept behind David Carr's memoir is intriguing. Stoned and drunk for much of his early life, the fact that he couldn't trust his own memories was brought home to him when he was shown that he completely misremembered an incident with a gun (hence the book's title). So, reporter that he is, he set out to interview people who knew him back in the day. He became an...
Published on August 21, 2008 by Kerry Walters


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131 of 147 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars David Carr turns the gun on himself -- and lives to tell the harrowing tale, July 27, 2008
"Let's say, for the sake of argument, that a guy threw himself under a crosstown bus and lived to tell the tale," David Carr writes. "Is that a book you'd like to read?"

Good question. Indeed, it's the question that prospective readers of "The Night of the Gun", Carr's warts-and-all memoir, will have to consider --- because this is that book.

Consider:

A talented kid without much direction graduates from high school pot smoking to cocaine at college.

He starts a career in journalism that has him reporting on police and government officials by day --- and freebasing cocaine at night.

He hooks up with a woman who deals dope. Driving to see her, he's so wrecked he almost crashes into a station wagon filled with kids. He skids into a ditch, has to spend the night in jail, misses his girlfriend's birthday. When he finally shows up, he gives her what can't be bought in any store: a black eye and a broken rib.

He introduces his girlfriend to crack. She gets pregnant. They become so thoroughly addicted that, just as her water is breaking, he's handing her a crack pipe. Their twin daughters are crack babies.

He splits with his girlfriend, and, because he has a nice job, keeps the girls with him. This does not stop him from locking them in the car while he runs into a dealer's house to score.

The gun: As he recalls it, he was so out of control that his best friend not only has to call the cops but wave a gun at him. His best friend remembers it another way --- as David's gun.

In detox, his arms are so nasty that the staffers have him reach into a tub of detergent so they don't have to touch him. It takes a full month for the drug psychosis to wear off. And he does rehab four times before he finally gets clean.

There are 300+ pages like that in "The Night of the Gun" --- it is a long downward spiral. Reading it, I thought of the Emmylou Harris lines: "One thing they don't tell you about the blues/When you got 'em/You keep on falling cause there ain't no bottom/There ain't no end..."

So, you may ask, what kept me reading?

In part, because David Carr emerges from the darkness into a kind of radiance: a new wife, intact family, great job. And because, at the center of his redemption, is a reason a lot of guys can relate to: "Everything good and true about my life started on the day the twins became mine."

And, in part, because I know David Carr. Like him a lot. Knew nothing about his past. And so was gobsmacked by every page. For those who do not traffic in New York media circles or read the paper of record, David Carr is the media columnist and sometime culture reporter for The New York Times. He's witty and gutsy and almost always fun to read --- when he's in the Times, I open it with actual enthusiasm.

There's another, better reason I kept reading. I have known a number of people who became addicts. I don't know any now --- some died, some got clean, and those who didn't drifted far from my ambitious, middle-class circle. As a result, I sometimes find my sympathies for addicts to be more abstract than real.

But at least I can still see addicts as victims of a terrible disease. A great many people in our country can't --- which is one reason we spend many times more money on a "war on drugs" and on jails that don't rehabilitate than we do on treatment centers. "The Night of the Gun" is a stark reminder that nice people from good families can sink just as low as the hard case from the projects --- and that drug addiction can, with luck and skill and love and patience, be cured.

David Carr was lucky. His sickness struck him when he lived in Minnesota, an enlightened state with many treatment facilities. He was lucky to have a friend like Dave, who showed up every Sunday to babysit the girls so Carr could go to meetings. (I dare you not to burst into tears when Dave is dying and Carr leans over him to whisper: "I owe you everything in the world.") And he was way lucky that a good woman took him in and made a home for him and his kids.

A few years ago, armed with a tape recorder and a video camera, David Carr went on the road to interview the people who knew him when. The results aren't pretty --- there are videos on his web site that made me wince --- but they certainly leave no doubt about the veracity of the story that he tells. The columnist who wrote about James Frey is not, in any way, like him.

David Carr now finds himself a "genuine, often pleasant person. I am able to imitate a human being for long spurts of time, do solid work for a reputable organization, and have, over the breadth of time, proven to be a loving and attentive father and husband."

For all that, he says, "I now inhabit a life I don't deserve."

I disagree.
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52 of 59 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A looooonnnnng night, August 21, 2008
By 
Kerry Walters (Lewisburg, PA USA) - See all my reviews
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The concept behind David Carr's memoir is intriguing. Stoned and drunk for much of his early life, the fact that he couldn't trust his own memories was brought home to him when he was shown that he completely misremembered an incident with a gun (hence the book's title). So, reporter that he is, he set out to interview people who knew him back in the day. He became an investigative reporter tracking down the young David Carr. Along the way, he discovered lots of things he said and did, but of which he has either no or distorted recollections.

So the angle that Night of the Gun takes is attractive. That's the good news. The bad news is that Carr can't quite deliver. For starters, the book is way too long and so the episodes Carr recounts (often with cinematic speed and compactness) tend to become repetitious. So there's a lot of words but not a lot of depth. Moreover, the lack of depth is reflected in the tough guy, Mickey Spillane style Carr chooses to write in, a style that comes across as inauthentic and, within just a few pages, incredibly annoying. Perhaps the point of the style is to create a living-on-the-edge ambience. But it doesn't work very well.

Ultimately, and most seriously, it's difficult to see what the point of Carr's book is. Is it to draw attention to the mysterious ways in which our memories deceive us? But if so, there's precious little real reflection on the issue, and most of it consists of unenlightening one-liners. (What a lost opportunity.) Is it to impress upon us the terrible things that drug and alcohol addictions do? But surely this has been done a bazillion times already in other memoirs as well as in films and novels (read anything by Hubert Selby, Jr., for example). Is the book intended to be a sort of celebrity confessional? But if so, it falls short of the mark because Mr. Carr simply isn't a celebrity.

I'm glad that Carr has straightened out his life. But I'm afraid his book rates no more than two and a half stars. For more authentic and better written recent memoirs of the addicted life, I recommend Lee Stringer's Grand Central Winter, David Sheff's Beautiful Boy, or James Salant's Leaving Dirty Jersey.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars If only..., March 25, 2009
I really wanted to like this book, and because of that I forced myself to read the final 200 pages, even though every instinct in my body told me to stop halfway through. I should have followed my gut. This book lacks any sort of actual depth. You don't get a good sense of what he went through, and I'll have to take his word that it was awful (it clearly was, but only because I know what his experiences were like, but he doesn't present the emotions in any way that you can connect to). Furthermore, I found the vast majority of it to be self-indulgent, almost as if he wanted to shout "These terrible things happened to me, and I did terrible things to others, but I'm actually a great, smart, funny, good looking guy!! I swear!!" A perfect example of this is as the end of the book he finally gets around to talking about the interviews he did with his daughters. An excellent opportunity to demonstrate how his behavior took him from being a God in their eyes to showing how he low he could fall. Instead what does he do? In a 3 page chapter covering both daughters he has about a paragraph from each of them, and in each paragraph they both say how intelligent he was. He doesn't conduct any interviews with the people who don't think he's great. For example, he talks about meeting his wife and how people told her to stay away from him. Why didn't he talk to any of them about what he did that made them hate him so much? Instead of interviewing some of his former employees who hated his guts he talks to the ones who say he was the best boss they ever had. I'm not saying he's a jerk, but everyone has people that dislike them, and in order to truly understand the awful things he did and how they affected people he should have talked to some of them. Instead, as his daughter says, this book feels like an attempt at catharsis whereby he can say he's looked at the horrors of his past and dealt with them without ever having to really sit down and deal with those issues. Having said that, I don't want this to sound like I'm attacking what he did, because I respect him for doing it, and I truly hope it did him a great deal of good in his personal life. All I'm saying is that reading the book gives these impressions, and leaves one bored, frustrated, and wishing for more.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Trying too hard, October 27, 2008
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The concept of this book is great: as a former drug addict, David Carr has trouble recalling a great portion of his own life. Now an established reporter, Carr uses his reporting tools and techniques to uncover his own past. I believe everyone has a story, and I have no-doubt that Carr's is an interesting one. The research is promising, but the delivery needs serious work.

I cannot get through this book. I have tried & tried. I cannot seem to read more than four pages at a time. I am intelligent. I received excellent grades in college, and am the administrator for a specialty department where I work. However, a lot of the words Carr uses, I just do not get--in either meaning or context. Carr also uses an overabundance of these "big" words in the same paragraphs, or even sentences. It is as if the author highlighted words, entered them in an online thesaurus, and picked the most intelligent-sounding replacement.

Carr also seems to have trouble forming his own thoughts; while I like quotes and references to philosophers, etc, Carr often quotes or refers to other authors and philosophers several times alone within the first two chapters--and again, often in the same paragraph.

Reviewing "The Night of the Gun" may seem unfair without completing the book; but I simply cannot finish. When an avid reader begins falling asleep after every few pages, and has not reached the end after two months, that seems to be a review in itself. It is time to move on.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It is hard to rate this book., February 10, 2009
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The guy certainly knows how to write, however after reading a few chapters I began to wonder if there is such a thing as a navel gazing narcissism. Or is all narcissism by it's very nature the ultimate navel gazing. Anyway it is remarkable that he not only survived this period in his life but that he kept any friends. The book however is not a compelling read, and I forced myself to finish it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Less than you'd expect, October 10, 2008
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As a fellow member of the alternative press I have attended stirring lectures by David Carr at national enclaves and gained great benefit from his advice and admonitions. I have great respect for his work. The core idea of this book is excellent and thought provoking. The result, unfortunately, doesn't live up to its promise. As with so many books that miss their mark, the glove seems smaller than the hand it is being stretched to fit.

The idea of investigating one's own life story, particularly a life as skewed as Carr's, appears fruitful. His examination of the failure and fluidity of memory is not without merit and he apparently lived through some wild and crazy times. Between his vile behavior and enormous drug intake, it is small wonder that he preferred to forget. He is a great story teller and he furnished himself with some great material.

But the second half of the the book, which covers his years in recovery, comes off as precious and boastful. Carr regales us with his professional success, parental dedication and marital choices in a wearying voice. Me, me, me, me. He makes some small effort to correct his more recent memories, bound as they are to be as suspect as the rest, but he seems too impressed with himself to achieve any deep meaning.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't Get THrough It, November 21, 2008
By 
Rick Mitchell "Rick Mitchell" (candia, new hampshire United States) - See all my reviews
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This memoir started with a great premise and a better opening salvo. The author is a recovered crack addict. When speaking to an old friend, he recalled the night the friend pulled a gun on him. The friend corrected him, telling him that he never owned a gun and that it was the author who had pulled the weapon. Great opening. From there the author, a NY Times reporter, decided to investigate his drug-addled life the way he would any other story. A terrific concept.

Thus began an endless series of interviews with people whose first names only were given. The name thing made the book even more difficult to follow than it was already was as the chapters and interviews were not laid out chronologically. Most of the chapters (admittedly I only could get halfway through) were incredibly redundant. This not only diminished the enjoyment, but added to the confusion and muddle which drowned out the message. Every "friend", "fellow user" or dealer sounded the same after a while.

The author was a bit disingenuous at times, also. Was it necessary to use only "Tom" when describing a large man who went to Hollywood and married "Roseanne" and produced her TV show? If he was going to call Tom Arnold out, he should have had the guts to name him outright.

The book was a disappointment after it grabbed me so hard with the opening gun ambit. A good editor could have pared this down to make it a much tighter, and therefore more meaningful book. The author has a lot to say and a lot to say that could probably be helpful to those in his prior condition, those around addicts and who love them, and those who just want to know aboout addiction and its culture. Unfortunately, the message was subsumed by the repetitious minutae of countless redundant anecdotes presented in a haphazrd manner.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great story obscured by self-centered detail, October 6, 2008
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"The Night of the Gun" has an intriguing premise: unnerved by a loss of confidence in the integrity of his memory, recovering crackhead and crack reporter David Carr decides to turn the tools of his trade on himself and investigate his own past. Unfortunately, this gimmick isn't enough to sustain what is ultimately a pretty typical tale of addiction and recovery.

The book is strongest when Carr is reporting on his harrowing descent into a drug-induced psychosis. Let's face it, this is a side of humanity most of us will never experience for ourselves, and hearing someone tell how he left twin baby girls inside a car on a winter night to go do some coke, or had to soak his arms scabbed from needles in a basin of detergent because the people at the detox center were afraid to touch him, delivers a frisson of horror at the spectacle and relief that we'll never tread down that path.

There are also some brief but intriguing side forays into the ephemeral nature of memory and the implications on the narratives we write about ourselves.

The weakest part of the book comes in its last third, when Carr is well on the path to recovery (a brief detour into alcohol abuse adds a bit of drama later on) and is rebuilding his journalistic career. Carr is obviously a hard-driving reporter and editor, but a long stretch of the book ends up being a self-congratulatory look at his professional credentials. While he acknowledges shortcomings, much of it comes off feeling more like he's answering the job-interview question, "What is your biggest weakness?" with hoary responses like "I push people to excel too much".

Carr's obviously a sharp guy and writes about his past with a pretty dispassionate and critical eye. He doesn't shy away about owning up to mistakes, but also doesn't attempt to take the blame for every bad thing that transpired, if the finger of evidence points elsewhere.

Carr does indicate that he understands the potential pitfalls of his project. One editor tells him before starting that the recovery parts of junkie stories are "soooo boring". He also briefly meditates on his apparently widely-known narcissistic tendencies. It's a shame he didn't take those reflections a little more seriously and chop about 100 pages from the book.

There is a great story in here, and one can only marvel Carr's improbable turnaround and come away wishing him a clean and healthy future. It's just too bad that it is often obscured by Carr's need to air lots of detail that isn't really that compelling to people who are not David Carr.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Just Not That Engaging., October 2, 2008
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I really wanted to like this book.

I've heard NPR interviews with David Carr and he was engaging and likable. I read some of his professional work and it was good.

All the parts were there, but ultimately, this book just wasn't engaging.

The premise - reported David Carr, now a in recovery addict, investigates his own memories and past "adventures" with chemicals, asking the question of himself "Do you only remember the things you can live with".

This book is a different kind of reportage and though a good idea, it gets tiring very quickly.

It goes something like this.
1. Carr recalls a specific incident.
2. Carr contacts another participant in the incident.
3. Carr has that person recall the incident.
4. Off color comments are made on the different recollections.
5. More often than not, Carr comments on how "they deserved" whatever happened.

Ha, ha - only, mostly, it's not funny.

The thing is - I would bet, that told in person, with tempo and timing, that some of these situations and differences in remembering and the resulting "they deserved it" - told in person, they are probably funny. The problem is the humor really doesn't translate well.

It's like sarcasm in an email - unless you know the sender very well, it might not play like sarcasm at all, and come off sort of wrong.

An example - A huge turn off for me was when Carr indicated he found a police report about himself, where he was high and had physically accosted a taxi cab driver - an incident that he completely did not recall being involved in. And though he has no memory of it, only the facts that there was a physical fight - he jokes at the end of the paragraph that he's sure the taxi driver "deserved it".

Where is the insight here? Yes, he's being self-effacing, but he's also being a bit of a jerk.

That someone in drug/alcohol recovery has "selective" memory, this is rather a given - the idea that David Carr was to use his own investigative abilities to look deeply into his past, that should have been enough, but alas it wasn't.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A well written bait-and-switch, June 2, 2010
This review is from: The Night of the Gun: A reporter investigates the darkest story of his life. His own. (Paperback)
When I first went to the website for this book some time ago, I had expected to read the opposite of what it turned out to be. I was under the impression that Carr would use the actual historical record of his debasement and addiction to shine an accurate light on what truly happened to him.

There is some of that, and yes, he did plenty of interviews - but they are no more a surefire record of the time he describes than his own memory. He uses SOME official documents to shine a light on certain events, but not that much, and often it's only vaguely enlightening anyway.

Basically, he's a great, compelling writer - as evidenced by his long career as a reporter. But this book is what he promised it would NOT be - a navel-gazing apoligia.

Maybe if I was a crackhead junkie, I could read this and get something out of it...maybe that's the audience and I should look at it like a self-help motivational book. I guess.

But, this is just more of what I've seen in plenty of other accounts - "look at me, I'm David Carr and when I was a crackhead I had an awesome time, and hooked up with lots of girls, and went to lots of parties, and knew movie stars...but it's bad! Don't do what I did!" Whatever.

Everybody he describes is saintly and forgiving, and every junkie he ever encountered was a real salt of the earth character who, in between hits, tried to help him out. Except for the mother of his kids, who I guess is still a wreck.

And - I can't get past the fact that if his name was De'wayne Carr, he would be long forgotten in some jail cell somewhere. He got breaks from the cops, from the legal system, from his employers, from basically everybody he took advantage of for years and years (although most of them were junkies, too). He does acknowledge these lucky breaks now and then, but it doesn't seem like he appreciates them very much.

Like I said, maybe I was the wrong audience for this book. I anticipated a very objective, somewhat distant examination of this period of debasement, and I think that would have been a valuable addition to the "junkie memoir." There's no shortage of first person recollections of a bad time in someone's life - this is just a slightly different version of something that's been done and done again.

Finally, and most significantly, he'd only been sober for a couple years before writing this book - when the entire book deals with his constant backsliding. I guess that's part of it - he's 100 percent certain to have a relapse, so why wait until he's been sober for 10 years, since it will never happen.

Very well-written, however. If you're a crackhead junkie and need some motivational support, I guess this book could help.
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The Night of the Gun: A reporter investigates the darkest story of his life. His own.
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