Several dozen people packed into Olsson’s in Dupont last night to hear N.Y. Times columnist David Carr discuss his new memoir “Night of the Gun.”
The lanky Carr took to makeshift stage and noted the difference in attendance to his various bookstore appearances — apparently only seven people came to an event in Vermont, and two of those seemed confused as to how they got there. He apologized for his raspy voice, which he described as a “casualty” of his prolonged book tour and said it that it been “compared unfavorably to something that had been dragged behind a pickup truck for 100 miles.”
When it came to his memoir, Carr explained that — in his mind — his experience in kicking his drug addiction, gaining custody of his children and getting off welfare was a “heroic” narrative. When he started doing research for the memoir, however, he found that the heroic narrative did not fit into what he’d learned about himself from others.
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“I thought I was Baby Jesus,” explained Carr, when he asked for custody of his twin daughters. The family attorney handling his case referred to him as “more of an ‘unholy mess.'”
“I didn’t realize I was dressed like a homeless person,” Carr explained.
Carr made a point to note the thoroughness of his research. “I didn’t want to end up on Oprah getting my arms and legs torn off,” he said, so he was sure to thoroughly check his sources, even if the subject matter was embarrassing. “It was embarrassing to knock on these people’s doors,” he said, “and say ‘Hey, remember me? The maniac from your past? Can I look at that scab on your shoulder? Can I pull it off? Can we talk about it? And can I video tape the whole thing?'”
But while the research might have been embarrassing, “the writing was easy,” Carr said. “I just pretended I was writing about some other guy.”
Carr only read one passage from his book before opening the floor to questions from the audience. One woman in the audience asked, as an addict, if Carr was becoming dependent on the attention and excitement that comes along with a major book tour, going on the Colbert Report, etc. In other words, “what happens when the phone stops ringing?”
“Well, that’s going to happen tomorrow,” quipped Carr. He then turned more serious and explained that he wasn’t going to be the guy that “tours on a recovery memoir and then goes and drinks a fifth of whiskey. I’m just not feeling it.”
Another audience member asked if he felt any camaraderie from other authors that have written similar books.
“You mean, has Augusten Burroughs e-mailed me? No, but that’d be cool.”
He also said that he would like to meet James Frey. “Even though I wasn’t really a fan of “A Million Little Pieces,” he got a raw deal from Oprah.” Carr explained that he felt like Oprah “made [Frey] look horrible in order to make herself look good.”
Carr went on to note his admiration for the recently deceased David Foster Wallace. “He makes me feel like I’m just typing, stringing words together. But as it turns out, being him was pretty hard…so I try to be content with what I’ve gotten.”
On the subject of a possible relapse, Carr said he didn’t plan to return to his old ways and didn’t need to do anymore “research” on the subject. “The results are in,” he said. “I’m a drunk and a lunatic, and I’m better when I’m sober.”