Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Halo of Flies

At its best, the junkie memoir is a specious thing. The transcription of bad behavior, forays into self-aggrandizement, a story arc straight out of 'Behind the Music'; it's a thoroughly skeevy endeavor. Worse yet, weave in a bit of embellishment and you got enough troubles to fill an episode of Oprah. Just ask James Frey. Yes, one of the few things less admirable than wallowing in drug-fueled squalor is trying to turn it into opium for the masses. All of which fails to explain why David Carr's life story is such a treasure. When the New York Times columnist set out to document his trip to oblivion and back, he couldn't differentiate between memory and self-protective myth. So he did what any good reporter would do: he began asking questions.

And not just of anyone. Carr tracked down old running buddies, cornered ex-drug dealers, quizzed the women he hit. The resulting tome is no fairy tale. In The Night of the Gun, Carr follows his regrettable trajectory: from good time party boy to full-on psycho. Before successfully completing rehab (on his fifth attempt), he finds himself, a bloated, deranged drug addict who harangued his friends, beat his lover and ignored the well-being of his prematurely born twins for the open lure of a freshly-packed crackpipe. It ain't pretty, but Carr's insistence on 'keeping it real' renders his personal history worthy of redemption. Mostly though, it's a beautifully written confessional by a man unafraid to own up to his oh so sordid past. His chapter detailing the day (and the way) he finally hit rock-bottom is so achingly accurate, so potently told, so totally devoid of froth and glory, it should be taught in schools. A+

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