Synopses & Reviews
Do we remember only the stories we can live with?
The ones that make us look good in the rearview mirror? In The Night of the Gun, David Carr redefines memoir with the revelatory story of his years as an addict and chronicles his journey from crack-house regular to regular columnist for The New York Times. Built on sixty videotaped interviews, legal and medical records, and three years of reporting, The Night of the Gun is a ferocious tale that uses the tools of journalism to fact-check the past. Carr's investigation of his own history reveals that his odyssey through addiction, recovery, cancer, and life as a single parent was far more harrowing -- and, in the end, more miraculous -- than he allowed himself to remember. Over the course of the book, he digs his way through a past that continues to evolve as he reports it.
That long-ago night he was so out of his mind that his best friend had to pull a gun on him to make him go away? A visit to the friend twenty years later reveals that Carr was pointing the gun.
His lucrative side business as a cocaine dealer? Not all that lucrative, as it turned out, and filled with peril.
His belief that after his twins were born, he quickly sobered up to become a parent? Nice story, if he could prove it.
The notion that he was an easy choice as a custodial parent once he finally was sober? His lawyer pulls out the old file and gently explains it was a little more complicated than that.
In one sense, the story of The Night of the Gun is a common one -- a white-boy misdemeanant lands in a ditch and is restored to sanity through the love of his family, a God of his understanding, and a support group that will go unnamed. But when the whole truth is told, it does not end there. After fourteen years -- or was it thirteen? -- Carr tried an experiment in social drinking. Double jeopardy turned out to be a game he did not play well. As a reporter and columnist at the nation's best newspaper, he prospered, but gained no more adeptness at mood-altering substances. He set out to become a nice suburban alcoholic and succeeded all too well, including two more arrests, one that included a night in jail wearing a tuxedo.
Ferocious and eloquent, courageous and bitingly funny, The Night of the Gun unravels the ways memory helps us not only create our lives, but survive them.
"Carr is meticulous in the investigation of his past.... He evinces genuine remorse for his frequently reprehensible behavior and succeeds in creating something more than merely another entry in what he terms the 'growing pile of junkie memoirs.'" The New Yorker
"A brilliantly written, brutally honest memoir." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Carr's unique way of researching a memoir will give new meaning to accuracy in an era of fiction passing as fact.... The Night of the Gun is a worthy memoir amid so many less worthy." Steve Weinberg, San Francisco Chronicle
"The Night of the Gun brilliantly blends commentary, reflection, reporting, philosophy and outrage. It's among the most incisive, amazing and poignant memoirs you'll encounter, even if, as Carr himself says, you can't be certain every single word is true." Ron Wynn, Bookpage
"An honorable addition to that branch of literature that tries to make sense out of a single, flawed life. His own. And, with luck, the lives of many strangers." Pete Hamill, New York Times
"Gritty and compelling." Richard Price
"Always fascinating, often disturbing, sometimes darkly comic, David Carr's The Night of the Gun reinvents the memoir genre by applying a dose of journalistic integrity. Carr's style is as elegant as his saga is gritty, and the story of his life is simply extraordinary. " Jeffrey Toobin
"Whoa: a breathtakingly candid, laugh-out-loud funny, heroically rigorous, consistently riveting, and deeply moving account of a nightmarish descent and amazing redemption. Bravo, David Carr." Kurt Andersen
About the Author
David Carr is a reporter and the Media Equation columnist for The New York Times
. Previously, he wrote for the Atlantic Monthly
and New York Magazine
. From ’93 to ‘95 he was editor of the Twin Cities Reader
. He lives with his family in Montclair, New Jersey.
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Night of the Gun includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book. "You remember the story you can live with, not the one that happened." In The Night of the Gun, David Carr, a renowned journalist for the New York Times, uses his reporting acuity to construct a memoir of his life: a sordid, harrowing tale of a drug addict attempting to reestablish some sense of his humanity. Through a series of setbacks and mishaps, David transforms from a privileged suburban kid into a hardened crack addict with a criminal record, and ultimately winds up a successful journalist and father of three. However, it isn't just David telling the story. Admitting the fickle nature of memory (especially that of a self proclaimed drug-addled maniac), David uses a slew of primary sources -- video interviews with friends and family, medical records, newspaper clippings, and photographs -- to retrace the lost years of his life, and to reconcile his own recollection of his journey through drugs, cancer, and single fatherhood. Self deprecating and articulate, Carr tracks his own narrative while simultaneously using his loved ones to set the record straight. With wit and candor, Carr retraces his life, and finds that much like the fabled Night of the Gun (a reference to an unclear incident during his most intense drug use), what he remembers and what actually happened are not always one and the same Questions for Discussion 1. Discuss the nature of memory and the way it transforms throughout the book. Re-read Chapter 53 ("We accessorize the memory with the present tense") and cite examples throughout the story where memory served as a function for the present, as the remembered event turned out to be much different from what actually occurred. Does it matter who had the gun? 2. Compare and contrast the positive and negative forces in his life -- from drug buddies to Fast Eddie to the unnamed New York Times bigwig). 3. How did the use of epigraphs affect the reading of each chaptery? Which do you feel correlated most directly with David's life? 4. Talk about the nature of illness throughout the book -- from his numerous addictions to his unfortunate ailments. Which affliction do you think cause the greatest amount of deterioration in his life? Are his addictions "curable?" Are his cancer and medical complications stronger demons? Are both unavoidable? 5. Whose interview was the most poignant? Marion? Anna? The twins? Which primary sources gave you the clearest picture of David's past? Was the power in their truthful account, or did it lie within their connection to David? 6. How did you feel about David's relapse into alcoholism after years of sobriety? What do you think drew him back to alcohol? Did you see it coming? Discuss his description of addiction as a "pirate," or a "guy doing pushups in the basement, ready to come out at any time." 7. Do you agree that David was justified in seeking and gaining custody of Erin and Meghan? As you were reading, did you question his motivations? In light of the twins' interviews at the book's close, how did the birth of the twins affect his life? Did they save him? Did he save them? 8. Can you cite a single major mistake or poor choice that David made as grounds for his descent? If the instance with the twins in the car is his redemptive, revelatory moment, what are the moments that lead to his downward spiral? Is it just a collection of pratfalls? 9. Discuss David's romances and trysts. Consider Doolie, Anna, Jill, and any others that he was briefly involved with. Track how David's love life has evolved since his time as a user. What do you make of his admittance of abuse? How do you feel about his marriage to Jill? 10. In Chapter 49, David states, "If memoir is an attempt to fashion the self through narrative, dreams simply reverse the polarity on the same imperative. The future is even more fungible than the past." Given that, what do you see for David Carr's future? Enhance Your Book Club 1. Visit nightofthegun.com and peruse the pictures, documents and videos that David often references in the book. Do the testimonies and back stories affect you differently when served through different media? Do they enrich the story in the book? Discuss the narrative within the context of the website versus that of the book. 2. Sit at your computer and go through the various photos, videos, and other mementos collected from your life. See if you can map a story through non-literary media alone. Attempt to make a photo sequence of your personal evolution, and share your results. 3. In the same vein, write a brief account of an event in your life, and interview a loved one or someone close to you about that same incident. See how the stories match up, how memory informs itself, and how personal narrative becomes shaped. Are there conflicting ideas of the past between you and the other person? Try it with a few subjects and share your results. 4. Visit http://www.salon.com/books/int/2008/08/08/carr/ and read the review/interview with Carr. Does an interview apart from the book have any effect on the content within? Do other mediums and reportages continue to reframe the story and the "fungible nature of memory?" 5. Read a few similar drug-related memoirs (for example, Augusten Burrough's Dry and Frey's much-maligned A Million Little Pieces). How do they compare when held against Night of the Gun? Discuss the different constructions of memoir, their similarities, and their weaknesses/strengths.