Comp Forum

The Night of the Gun

“Sitting outside my hotel in Tucson, nineteen years after the twins were born, Anna suggested that I had, on one occasion, smoked crack in her hospital room. There is no personal recollection of doing so, but I have no reason to doubt her.” (151)

David Carr was an addict, and the worst kind. He had a job, but no motivation to get sober. He had kids, and it still took them getting taken away to get sober, in fact, Carr and Anna, the mother of his children, were getting high when she went into labor. As the quotation implies, Carr has to piece together his past to write this book and discovers or remembers bad things. Addiction was Carr’s driving force in the eighties. Right away, Carr talks about knowing what he deserved and being so lucky that he got “a nice house, a good job, three lovely children.”(16) And he is lucky. Carr was on the bad side of a lot of things, he was disappointing his mother, his boss, and the people who cared about him. He lost his job, wife, money, dignity, and left his children orphaned.

Carr started off “The Night of the Gun” in 1987 with a memory of being high at work while talking to the editor of the magazine he worked at. His boss told him to get treatment or to be fired; he’d even called a place to have a bed ready. Carr said “I’m not done yet” and left the office only to meet up with another coke-buddy on the street. He met up with another buddy and they had a night. They drugged up, got kicked out of a bar, had a slightly terrifying fight involving a gun and a broken window, and the cops were called. Carr woke up with a killer hangover and blood all over himself. He barely remembered anything about that night. This doesn’t sound like an enjoyable night, so why would someone choose to keep going with these nights?

Twenty years later, he learned he may not even have the story correct. “Memories, even epic ones, are perishable from their very formation even in people who don’t soak their brains in mood-altering chemicals.”(12) A lot of Carr’s own story is based on his scarce and slightly unreliable memory or other people’s scarce and slightly unreliable memory. Carr talks about remembering the best about himself, because that’s what people like to do. Sydney always talks about how on our first trip to Chicago together, she wanted to murder me, but I truthfully don’t remember it being that awful. I don’t want to remember being mean to one of my best friends, and Carr doesn’t want to remember brandishing a gun at his buddy.

Carr has so many party memories, so many bad party experiences. He had to rely on the memories of Anna’s ex-husband during her pregnancy. Carr is reporting his experience through interviews with old friends, finding pictures and letters and documents. From being caught doing coke in a bathroom by a police officer to trying to tell his story by getting a hold of so many different magazines and newspapers. “Here, safe in an Adirondack redoubt where I am piecing together the history of That Guy, I often feel I have very little in common with him. And that distance will keep me typing until he turns into this guy.”(186) I don’t have any experience with addiction, unless reading Harry Potter every summer counts, but reading about Carr’s experience helps one understand that addiction takes away your life. Carr piecing together his memories is painful to read.

You need to be a member of polkingclassroom to add comments!

Join polkingclassroom

Email me when people reply –


  • “This time in treatment, either because of the stakes, the duration, or perhaps the fatigue with living the Life, I was less interested in being some kind of junior counselor than in actually digging in and doing the hard work of recovery. I was, over time, a man about my business; the business of staying sober a day at a time, no matter what.” (210) It’s clear that at this point, Carr truly want to get sober, and help others to become sober. Carr has to help his little girls, he has to help himself, he wants to, and if he wants to hard enough, works hard enough, he think he can. Carr obviously thinks of his addiction as something he wants to conquer, though he once admitted to a friend that he wasn’t sure he could. Which is one of the reasons I believe that addiction is a mix between a “disease that needs treatment” and “you could stop if you want.” Carr was stuck in a rut, knew he needed to get help, but was well-aware that he could fall back in.

    “I was a single parent from the time my girls were one until they were six. Whenever the subject comes up, people always wonder “how I did it.” I didn’t.” (256) His girls were one of the reasons Carr got sober. He needed to take care of them and he knew that getting help from centers would help him the most. Carr went to rehab because he knew he needed to.

    “Many good things happened while I was at the Reader. The next publisher, R.T., . . . engineered a deal to take us out of the horrid suburban office building we were in and bring us downtown, to the city we were trying to cover.” (309) Carr went from job to job and a lot of people were able to help him. Each time he got better and better and he just kept going.

    “Near Christmas of 2002, I was sitting in the smoking room back when there was such a thing, bemoaning that when I walked out after a play in New York, I took custody of a wish list form some kids whose families couldn’t afford presents.” (344) Carr did a wonderful job telling his transition from raging addict to loving father, but he also was able to tell stories of other people in the stories of himself. Carr’s story explains how rough it is, how much it sucks to know that you’ve done this to yourself and how much many addicts really do want to get clean. He had such a rough time trying, but he’s a writer, and he explained it so well.
  • We tend to be binary thinkers, and the binary with addiction tends to be either "lack of willpower, you could stop if you want" or "disease that deserves treatment." Truth, as in so many matters, likely lies somewhere along the spectrum between those binaries.

    Where on that spectrum do you feel addiction lies, and what might Carr say about this binary?
  • How does treatment affect users such as Carr and what drives them to the point of treatment?
  • How can Carr's story help those of us who don't understand what addiction does first hand?
This reply was deleted.