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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » The Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of his Life--His Own » User review

Good In Theory; Poor In Practice

  • Apr 11, 2009
  • by
For the most part, I thoroughly enjoy stories and memoirs about addiction and climbing out of the deepest holes. The author, David Carr, made a journalistic memoir about his past in drugs and alcohol, which became this book. There are some interesting stories but there was little emotion in this book. I understand that this was more a unbiased look at addiction through the retelling of stories forgotten or misremembered; but, the entire time I was reading this book I never felt like anything that was happening was that big of a deal (even though it was). There was hardly any emotion in this book, which made it much more difficult to empathize with those Carr surrounded himself with and the terrible acts he engaged in.

With no perceived personal attachment to anything in the book, I found it increasingly more difficult to want to here more. There were so many missed opportunities for personal reflection I was left increasingly frustrated at the end of each chapter. I understand that that may not have been the goal of the book and that even when Carr didn't remember anything and was being told what he did in particular instances, there was no reflection (or very little) about how he felt learning about himself after the fact, looking back.

The format of the book was a good idea. It just did not follow through on engaging me in his recovery and the harrowing life he lived. It is unfortunate that the back of the book was overly sensationalized compared to the under sensationalized content. The brief synopses on the back were not accurate at all, at least in presentation.

Overall, this was a decent book, but was left so much unfulfilled potential.

Good reading,

Plants and Books
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April 12, 2009
Thanks for the review. This is one of the books in my "to read" stack, but I might hold off on it for awhile. For my two cents, it seems like Carr's apparent detachment from his personal recollections is a way to distance himself from all the crazy, horrible things he's done. But as a reader, I want him to implicate himself all the way, so to speak. Anyways. If you're a fan of that first-person journalistic narrative, have you tried Nick Tosches' The Last Opium Den?
April 12, 2009
Hi LingEatsCake. Thanks for the comment. I believe that the purpose of the detachment was a way to lend credibility to the memoir. I'm sure you remember the Million Little Pieces fiasco several years ago and by Carr creating his account based on other people's memories instead of Carr's own might make it more solid in believability and credibility, and thus be more impactful. I think there is a lot of room for improvement or even a combination of other accounts plus his own. The difference between A Million Little Pieces and Night of the Gun is (regardless of how you feel about Million Little Pieces) that Million Little Pieces was much more emotional. I think addiction memoirs need the emotions in order to make it a more powerful experience.

I have not tried The Last Opium Den, but now that you have suggested it and I read some about it, it has now been placed on my "wishlist" and will hopefully get it at the library sometime soon (and then hopefully have time to read it!). I am a fan of addiction/drug stories so I appreciate the recommendation. I have Tweak: Growing up on Methamphetamines sitting on my table right now, but I'm not sure I'm going to get to it before I have to return it to the library...
April 12, 2009
Hi plantsandbooks (nice username!), I'm of the opinion that memoirs can be credible and emotional at the same time. There is one way to write a fictional memoir, and I'd say William Maxwell's attempt is a pretty good one.
April 12, 2009
Thanks! I started a blog to track my book reviews, but my other hobby is cultivating carnivorous plants, so I thought I would sort of combine the two. I completely agree with your opinion. I only mentioned what I did because I think the definition of a "memoir" came under tough scrutiny after it came out that James Frey's memoir was fabrication (at the very least). Regardless of his story being 10% truth or 100% lies, it was still a compelling story (if you could get past the media blitzkrieg). After this fiasco, I think addiction memoirs got the tough end of the stick because how can you really recount all your memories (at least accurately) from being stoned on meth, crack, or whatever? Which is a complete tragedy because tales of addiction are often the most gut wrenching, self enlightening, and down right compelling stories told (at least in my opinion).

Your point about being credible and emotional at the same time is well taken, but I think Carr went a little too far in trying to make his story credible but did not have the personal attachment and self realization (at least emotionally for the reader) that I had come to expect from drug addiction stories.
April 12, 2009
Agreed! ;)
More The Night of the Gun: A Report... reviews
review by . June 10, 2009
Autobiographical tales featuring survivors of drug addiction and substance abuse have always been popular. There is something intriguing about listening as someone describes hitting rock bottom, and then somehow managing to miraculously turn themselves around.    Of course, such books are so popular that one must sometimes wonder whether the facts have been embellished for the sole purpose of entertainment. The debacle surrounding A Million Little Pieces alerted the …
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About this book



ISBN-10: 1416541527
ISBN-13: 978-1416541523
Author: David Carr
Genre: Biographies & Memoirs, Reference
Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st Simon & Schuster Hardcover edition (August 5, 2008)
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