The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

November 28, 2008

Book review: Memoir an unmerciful mirror

‘The Night of the Gun’

By David Carr

Although I love a good autobiography, the one genre I tend to avoid is the addiction memoir. I usually find them mawkish and somewhat lacking in truthfulness, as evidenced by the debacle with James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces.”

When I picked up “The Night of the Gun” by David Carr, it was with some trepidation. But I had heard him interviewed on National Public Radio and was intrigued by the book’s subtitle: “A reporter investigates the darkest story of his life. His own.”

His story did not disappoint. There are few books about which I say this, but I hated to put it down when sleep or work beckoned. Carr details his descent from hard-partying college student to full-blown crack addict, as well as repeated trips to rehab. Along the way, he raises twin daughters, squanders opportunities both professional and personal, battles cancer, and becomes a successful journalist.

What struck me most about “The Night of the Gun” was Carr’s lack of self-pity. He takes a microscopic, unsympathetic look at himself. He had a family that loved him, some education, a lot of talent, and a series of jobs that would have allowed him to advance far in his chosen career had he managed to stay clean.

Basically, he was a major screw-up, and it was no one’s fault but his own. As he puts it, “Truly ennobling personal narratives describe a person overcoming the bad hand that fate has dealt him, not someone like me, who takes good cards and sets them on fire.”

As expected, he admits to abusing ridiculous amounts of illegal substances, but he also doesn’t spare the reader the grittier aspects of his dark period. He confesses to dealing drugs, beating up his girlfriend, pulling a gun on a good friend, even leaving his infant daughters alone in a car on a cold Minnesota night while he went to score drugs.

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