Book review: ‘The Night of the Gun’
Vail CO, Colorado
“Memories may be based on what happened to begin with, but they are reconstituted each time they are recalled ” with the most-remembered events frequently the least accurate.”
” David Carr, “The Night of the Gun”
By challenging the foundation of a memoir, memory itself, The New York Times media columnist and culture reporter David Carr has reinvented the genre. In “The Night of the Gun,” Carr applies investigative reporting skills to his own life, revisiting the people, places and events that comprised his time as a crack cocaine addict.
While memory tells him that the 1988 birth of his twin daughters, Erin and Meaghan, set him on a straight course to recovery and redemption, his deep dive into the past, including police records, medical reports and interviews (all of which he recorded and videotaped for accuracy) construct a different narrative.
By virtue of their ego-centric nature, many memoirs fail to capture diverse perspectives that comprise the story. However, this is where Carr succeeds. He smashes the expectations of one-dimensional storytelling, sharing the voices of countless characters who shaped his life ” ex-girlfriend, ex-wife, rehab counselor, dealers, daughters. The resulting “reported memoir” is equal parts mystery and captivating honesty.
No matter what the scene is ” the messy night out at the bar that derailed into “the night of the gun” (Did he carry the gun or did Donald?); or leaving his daughters in the back seat of the ’79 Chevy Nova, bundled in their snowsuits, while he got his fix at the “shooting house” (Was it minutes or hours they were left alone after midnight in the Minnesota winter?) ” the unintentional morphing of memory finds a rough translation in varnished truth.
“As the data accumulated, I began to think of [my] hard drive as all-knowing, a digital oracle that knew more about my life than I did, a device that told the truth because that was all it contained,” Carr writes.
Especially in our post-James Frey/”Million Little Pieces” world, Carr’s use of primary sources, extensive reporting and proper attribution carry essential weight. While most junkie memoirs rely on readers’ voyeuristic impulses to carry the storyline, Carr’s candid portrayal of the present ” the challenges of overcoming addiction, the vulnerability of a sordid past constantly threatening family and career stability ” is more poignant than Carr’s literal and figurative wrecks.
Depending on the bookstore, memoirs are often shelved in fiction. Thanks to ” or possibly in spite of ” his addictive personality, Carr has injected a level of detail that, along with his snarky wit and relentless search for the truth, even when it hurts, has earned “The Night of the Gun” a justified place in nonfiction.
Tara is a full-time reader and part-time bookseller at The Next Page book store in Frisco. This book is available at The Bookworm of Edwards.