Thursday, August 21, 2008

NYT's Carr retraces recovery in new book

By JEFF BAENEN, Associated Press Writer
2 hours, 16 minutes ago

David Carr

Was it his best friend who pulled the gun on Carr some 20 years ago when Carr — fired from a job and thrown out of a bar — tried to kick in his friend's front door and broke a window, as Carr remembered it, or was it Carr himself who held the gun?

Armed with a video camera and digital recorder, Carr revisited his old haunts and interviewed ex-girlfriends, former employers and people he did drugs with. The result is "The Night of the Gun," a memoir that traces Carr's rise from cocaine addict to single dad raising twin girls to sobered-up media columnist for The New York Times.

"I'd always said I'd never write a book like this. And then I started to think, 'But if I ever did, it would be really good,'" Carr says.

Critics agree, heaping praise upon "The Night of the Gun" (subtitled "A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life. His Own"). The New York Observer said Carr's first book "turns the traditional memoir on its head, assuming as it does that its author knows nothing about his own life and must research it as though it were someone else's." Simon & Schuster is giving "The Night of the Gun" a big promotional push, with an accompanying Web site — http://www.nightofthegun — and about 75,000 initial copies of the book, published Aug. 5.

But the raves are not universal. After reading an excerpt featured as the cover story in The New York Times Magazine, Forbes media columnist James Brady said he doesn't plan to read Carr's book, calling it "an exercise in self-indulgent narcissism. What a waste — of talent, energy and professional competence."

Carr shrugs off Brady's criticism.

"His idea is that I should write a big long book about my glorious media career," Carr told The Associated Press in a telephone interview, "and he and about four other people would read that."

Carr, 51, said a "college tuition moment" prompted him to write his book. The twin girls Erin and Meagan that he had with a former girlfriend and cocaine dealer — identified as Anna in the book — are now 20 and attending universities in Wisconsin and Michigan.

Carr says he wrote up a book proposal "on a dare to myself" in two days. After an agent sold the idea, Carr — who lives in suburban Montclair, N.J. — traveled back to Minnesota to start the interviews. He ended up interviewing about 60 people and working on the book for three years. He took the transcribed interviews, numerous documents and pictures to his family's cabin in the Adirondacks and wrote the book last summer.

Anna, who now lives in Arizona, agreed to be interviewed, but Carr says his first wife, Kim, did not. (Carr has since remarried and has an 11-year-old daughter named Madeline with his second wife, Jill.)

"She had pushed me back out of her life once, and she didn't really feel a need to have me back in. I think she thought the book idea was stupid," Carr says.

After battling Anna for the twins' custody — and winning — Carr said "it wasn't unpleasant" to talk to her again after all these years.

"I like her and she likes me, but it's just weird. Really weird," Carr said in his raspy voice. "'How about that scab you have on you from, you know, 20 years ago. Do you mind ripping that off and talking to me about it?'"

Comedian and actor Tom Arnold, who started his standup career in Minneapolis, was pals with Carr on the city's party circuit in the 1980s and is featured in the book. He calls Carr's story redemptive.

"He did some outrageous things, and he did some horrible things, and yet that's not who he is. ... But that's what drugs will do to you," Arnold told the AP. "He survived, and people can survive."

In the book, Carr doesn't flinch from describing his arrests (including one he didn't remember, for punching a cabbie), his trips to rehab (which turned out to be five instead of the four he remembered) and his bout with Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. (Carr says his health is fine, although he's been smoking a lot because of the book — the interview is interrupted several times by his hacking cough.)

Rudy PerpichMinneapolisBrian LambertTwin Cities ReaderInsideKurt AndersenNew YorkThe Atlantic MonthlyThe New York Timeshttp://www.nightofthegunSimon & Schusterhttp://www.simonsays

Jeff Baenen can be reached at jbaenen(at)

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