“The Night of the Gun”

October 1, 2008 at 4:03 pm | Posted in Memoir, Nonfiction | Leave a comment

They’re not novels, exactly, but are memoirs nonfiction?  David Carr tackles this conundrum in The Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life – His Own.  He knows he has an amazing story, and he wants to share it, but he also wants to make sure things really went down the way he remembered them.  As it turns out, his memory isn’t entirely trustworthy, so he goes on an odyssey of interviews of people from his past, determined to get to the truth.  Think My Dark Places meets High Fidelity, with a bit of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas stirred in.

The story itself – man struggles with addiction, stuff happens – has been told by a number of people recently.  None, to my knowledge, have done what Carr does, which is to attempt to document everything, no matter how bad it makes him look.  For instance, he discovers he’s been to rehab and been arrested more times than he had thought.  This is less the story of an addiction than the story of a memory and the cunning little tricks it pulls.  It reminds me of Diogenes, wandering around with a lit lantern in the daytime, looking for an honest man – though in Carr’s case he’s holding a mirror in the other hand.

What impressed me most about The Night of the Gun was that Carr spoke with people regardless of what had transpired in their relationship.  He talked to bosses he had failed, the exes he drove nuts, people who lent him money, the friends and family and colleagues who watched him flail around with his addiction.  He makes a major effort to present these discussions as accurately as possible, even recording them and putting the results up on a website.  If you ever wondered what a fearless moral inventory looks like, this is the book for you.

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