The Night of the Gun

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5

If, per Joan Didion, we tell ourselves stories in order to live, a cynic might aver that we read others’ stories of misery in order to feel better about ourselves. What more can possibly be wrung from the memoir of abjection, particularly in a post–James Frey era when one can never be entirely sure which bits have been wholly fabricated for maximum debasement?

But if you are a gifted writer and reporter (and assiduous fact-checker) like The New York Times’ David Carr, the reconciling of an especially monstrous past of drinking, drugging, woman-beating and child-endangering with the clean and sober upstanding journalist and happily married father of three living in Montclair, New Jersey, becomes a spell-binding narrative of how, in his words, “That Guy” became “This Guy.” In recounting the heinous years, Carr deploys the tools of journalism to gather the facts (police records, medical reports, urgent dispatches from child-welfare offices) and get the other side of the story (from friends he drugged and drank with, employers and colleagues whose lives he made impossible, the former coke dealer who is the mother of his twin girls). Refreshingly self-aware, Carr, in one brief passage, acknowledges the triteness of the aphorisms in the language of recovery while never letting us forget that those maxims continue to save his life. Sometimes the discourse stumbles with swagger: “I wanted to have enough juice and accomplishment so that if anybody got up in my grill in an untoward way, I could simply say, ‘You are not the boss of me. Fuck. Off.’ ” Still, The Night of the Gun manages to accomplish the impossible: It redeems the redemption song.

By David Carr. Simon & Schuster, $26.