David Carr is best known as a media columnist for the New York Times and the writer behind Carpetbagger, the paper’s blog covering the Academy Awards.
The Topic: Long before he was a successful media columnist, David Carr was a junkie in 1980s Minneapolis. Like many people who have turned their lives around after a drug addiction, Carr felt compelled to share his story. But as any addict-turned-memoirist also knows, memory is often unreliable. Fortunately, after decades as a reporter, Carr was well-equipped to solve the problem. Covering his life as he would a muddled political imbroglio, Carr sought out documents and interviewed those who enabled him, rebuked him, suffered with him, and suffered at his hands, compiling a sad self-documentation of self-destruction only redeemed by the twin girls he raised and the promise of sobriety at the end.
Simon & Schuster. 389 pages. $26. ISBN: 1416541527
Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Any reader who loves a story of hard-won redemption will surely come to admire David Carr’s stunningly smart new chronicle of drug use and despair set in Minneapolis in the 1980s. … Considering how bad this story gets—oh, and it gets bad—no small amount of courage was required to purge this author’s past and construct a can’t-look-away memoir that soars high above other books within the formidable addiction-lit genre." Andrea Hoag
Wall Street Journal
"On the way to the bottom, he deals drugs, beats up women, cheats on his young wife, steps out on one girlfriend with another—conveniently enough, a flourishing drug dealer—and knocks her up. … Mr. Carr has written an arresting tale of pleasure paid for with pain and humiliation and damage to others—a more revealing story of an addict’s fall and rise than perhaps even he realizes." Edward Kosner
"The book overcomes many of the difficulties of the confessional genre, though not all. … Most striking is the pairing of his recollections with interviews, years later, with those who were involved. It gives a journalistic solidity to the work of memory, which turns out to be sometimes incomplete or plain wrong." Richard Eder
Rocky Mountain News
"At times you feel you need pot holders to turn the page, and one can only imagine the torture Carr went through to type it. … Carr is very good at describing both the addictive high of drugs (it almost seems like a Disneyland of the mind) and the dark paranoia that accompanies addiction." Mike Pearson
NY Times Book Review
"What Carr excels at, where his gifts as a journalist shine, is explaining how an addict’s life works, the economics of it, the ad-hoc social web, the quotidian feel of the thing. … As a nonaddict, I honor his sobriety, to use the current political formulation; but I also wish he had revealed more of his tortured, tenacious soul." Bruce Handy
Addiction memoirs are about the last thing most book critics want to read; even the good ones usually—and necessarily—follow a narrative pattern determined by the drugs themselves. All reviewers agreed that David Carr manages to break the mold by injecting his contemporary reporter persona into the tale, adding new insight into the situation of the addict. This alone distinguishes the book from others in the genre. Yet a few reviewers seemed a little weary of the overall addiction narrative and the nastiness that inevitably comes with it. Others picked up on a complaint best expressed by the New York Times: while Carr’s documentary approach provides deep insight into the life of an addict, it gives us remarkably little of his psyche, depriving the work of some of the vigor that has made memoirs like those of Augusten Burroughs so popular.