You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Night of the Gun

The Night of the Gun is a memoir written by David Carr of his addiction to cocaine and his recovery. He spent much of his young adult life looking for his next high. He progressed from snorting cocaine to smoking crack to shooting cocaine. Somehow he managed to keep steady work as a journalist, despite letting his employers down and getting fired from multiple jobs.

The difference between this story and other memoirs is that Carr has turned his journalist skills on his own life. He has researched his past and examined court records and interviewed those who knew him during his addiction. The title refers to a night when he got into an argument with a friend and went to the friends house and his friend had to wave a gun at him to get him to leave. Only when he interviews his friend about the incident, he learns that it was he himself who had the gun. He has trouble believing this at first, since he considers himself the sort of person who would not own a firearm. But he believes this new version when he talks to another friend who says that he helped Carr retrieve a gun from his home. The narrative becomes more than just a description of events but also a comparison of memories and the actual events of records. He discusses the past with friends who remember completely different perspectives on the same events. He talks about how memories change over time and they are filtered through later memories and one's perspective of oneself. This improves the narrative over just a description of hazy memories originally created in a haze of chemicals.

Carr progresses from being a user into being a dealer to support his habit. He juggles a relationship with two women, including Anna, a divorced mother of two who is a cocaine dealer with many connections. He takes advantage of Anna's access to cocaine, and soon most of their profits are getting up their noses or being smoked. They can't even stop when Anna gives birth to twin girls, crack babies who are premature and underweight. Carr has an insight one night when he leaves the girls alone and asleep in a car one night while he visits a dealer and loses track of time. He finally hands his children over to his parents and enters a last chance treatment facility for six months. When he emerges sober and clean he realizes that Anna is still using and end up with the children. They end up in a long custody battle, but with some luck and Anna's inability to stay clean he's granted sole custody. His girls become the anchor that keep him away from drugs.

Carr manages to put his life back together and make a good life for his girls, with the help of friends and family. But years later he starts drinking and it gets out of control. Somehow the memory of his addiction had faded and he thought he could deal with it. After he's arrested for DWI he goes back into treatment and manages to get sober again.

The story is interesting and it's told very well. Carr is a great writer and he deals with his own past with a good deal of objectivity. He presents different views of events and people's interviews. Some of the details get a bit indulgent (a hazard for a memoir), especially in the period after his recovery and leading to his relapse. But overall he paints a vivid picture of addiction and recovery. B+


Blogger Fredwebs said...

I'm glad you found the book worthwhile. It was indulgent after his initial recovery, but added to the surprise when he lapsed into alcoholism.

Fred Peters

9:57 PM, June 11, 2009  

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