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The Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of his Life--His Own Hardcover – August 5, 2008
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Amazon Best of the Month, August 2008: In his fabulously entertaining The Kid Stays in the Picture, legendary Hollywood producer Robert Evans wrote: "There are three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth." David Carr's riveting debut memoir, The Night of the Gun, takes this theory to the extreme, as the New York Times reporter embarks on a three-year fact-finding mission to revisit his harrowing past as a drug addict and discovers that the search for answers can reveal many versions of the truth. Carr acknowledges that you can't write a my-life-as-an-addict story without the recent memoir scandals of James Frey and others weighing you down, but he regains the reader's trust by relying on his reporting skills to conduct dozens of often uncomfortable interviews with old party buddies, cops, and ex-girlfriends and follow an endless paper trail of legal and medical records, mug shots, and rejection letters. The kaleidoscopic narrative follows Carr through failed relationships and botched jobs, in and out of rehab and all manner of unsavory places in between, with cameos from the likes of Tom Arnold, Jayson Blair, and Barbara Bush. Admittedly, it's hard to love David Carr--sometimes you barely like the guy. How can you feel sympathy for a man who was smoking crack with his pregnant girlfriend when her water broke? But plenty of dark humor rushes through the book, and knowing that this troubled man will make it--will survive addiction, fight cancer, raise his twin girls--makes you want to stick around for the full 400-page journey. --Brad Thomas Parsons
From Publishers Weekly
An intriguing premise informs Carr's memoir of drug addiction—he went back to his hometown of Minneapolis and interviewed the friends, lovers and family members who witnessed his downfall. A successful, albeit hard-partying, journalist, Carr developed a taste for coke that led him to smoke and shoot the drug. At the height of his use in the late 1980s, his similarly addicted girlfriend gave birth to twin daughters. Carr, now a New York Times columnist, gives both the lowlights of his addiction (the fights, binges and arrests) as well as the painstaking reconstruction of his life. Soon after he quit drugs, he was thrown for another loop when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. Unfortunately, the book is less a real investigation of his life than an anecdotal chronicle of wild behavior. What's more, his clinical approach (he videotaped all his interviews), meant to create context, sometimes distances readers from it. By turns self-consciously prurient and intentionally vague, Carr tends to jump back and forth in time within the narrative, leaving the book strangely incoherent. (Aug.)
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Top customer reviews
I've heard a lot of talkers and he was easily the most gifted extemporaneous crafter of unique sentences. The book mostly upholds that standard, which is remarkable, given the familiarity of the terrain of recovery literature.
Which is why I hate this book. He was one of a few very useful people of his generation and now he is dead and the book reminds me what I loved about David's work.
So, I can't chide him for taking a little too much joy in how cool his life was at various times. I can't conk him for simultaneously hating on junkie memoirs and writing a classic. And I can't tell him I loved the way he stuffed in New York's face the redemptive power of his love for his girls and the comfort he took in religion. So not cool, both of those things. And so Carr to speak plainly of them.
I'd gladly trade the life of several of the leading lights of journalism-about-journalism for another year of Carr making sense of it.
There were a few lines about him being a single dad that were beautiful. I liked how he pointed out that the hero-like qualities attributed to him as a single father were vastly different than if he’d been a single mother.
He writes, “Truly ennobling personal narratives describe a person overcoming the bad hand that fate has dealt them, not someone like me, who takes good cards and sets them on fire.”
He does a compelling job of pointing out how our memories, particularly if our brains have marinated in alcohol and illegal chemicals for years, aren’t reliable. He did some despicable things, but he had a family that was familiar with substance abuse who helped when he was ready for help, and he worked to make amends and get in with the recovery community. His tale of relapse, unfortunately, was also not a new story, but still interesting and painful to read about. Again, he had good work and a caring family to help him back from the brink yet again, which is not a guarantee of success, but it sure doesn’t hurt.
Carr is aware of -- and mocks -- the tropes of the junkie memoir, but he does not transcend them entirely.
At times I felt like jabs at his fellow junkie ex-wife, the mother of his daughters, went from elucidating to score-settling. At some point toward the end of the book you realize this is a memoir of a person who is good at writing and who has had some really cool jobs but who didn't really accomplish anything except kicking dope and raising a family, which is admirable of course but I'm not sure it entitles him to a memoir. And it isn't clear that he thinks it does, either.
Yet it is here nonetheless, and in its honest accounting the reader will likely find themselves moved by this man's story. Triumphant? Not really. A terrible story well told? Absolutely.