It’s Memoir Monday here as we work our way through the month-long blogging bonanza celebrating the launch tomorrow (tomorrow!) of Truth, Dare, Double Dare, Promise or Repeat: On Finding the Meaning of “Like” in 1982. I’m reviewing memoirs I’ve read recently, as I’m apt to do frequently on this blog because good writers know that reading works in their genre makes them better.
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When you meet someone who’s experienced incredible or perhaps horrible events, a common response is “you should write a book!”
David Carr was one of those people. And he did.
The renowned writer and editor–who worked for a time in Minneapolis, which is interesting to this native Minnesotan–lived a wild life. He snorted, smoked and injected vast quantities of cocaine, survived cancer (once anyway) and brought up twin girls as a single parent.
When he wrote The Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life: His Own in 2008, he approached his subject–himself–like a reporter, interviewing associates, colleagues, friends and family and reviewing the public record: police reports, court records and his own (vast) published writings. In many ways, he had to. He was drunk or high or both through much of his early career and couldn’t remember many salient details. Like who had the gun on “the night of the gun”:
“In the novelized version of my life, I was basically a good guy who took a couple of wrong turns and ended up in the ditch. In the reported version, I was a person who saw the sign that said dangerous curves ahead and floored it, heedlessly mowing down all sorts of people at every turn.”
His memoir–really, it’s more of an autobiography because it covers a lot of ground–offers an interesting perspective on memory. He writes he learned gigabytes of data about “a story I though I already knew.”
Because he knew what he was doing as a high-profile writer, his book is filled with well turned phrases I savored: “I was a slow-motion kidnapper, and Doolie served a long, brutal stint in my custody,” “Ships passing in a mood-altered murk, each regarding the other through the lens of pharmacology” and “the eyes that saw too much because they did not close often enough.”
I did not like the on-and-on descriptions of his destruction and for a while, I thought his story was going to end happy when he got clean, but it got much deeper (and better) when he wrote about parenting and cancer. As both an addict and a sober “normal” guy, his perspectives on health care, pain killers and cancer treatment are clear-eyed and unique.
And maybe it’s journalists who are obsessed with brilliant quotes from other writers. Carr adds a quote to the beginning of every chapter, and I loved that, too. I did it, too, in The Percussionist’s Wife (one of my favorites was the quote from Bill Clinton’s deposition on the meaning of is), and I guess I sort of did it in Truth, Dare, Double Dare, Promise or Repeat, which begins with a “brilliant” quote from my high school diaries.
He writes repeatedly of the narcissism of memoirists, maybe to apologize for delving so deeply into his own life, I don’t know, but that’s what I love about memoirs–the self-reflection and detail of another person’s life. In the end, he offered some good advice I think we all would do well to heed:
“I now inhabit a life I don’t deserve, but we all walk this earth feeling we are frauds. The trick is to be grateful and hope the caper doesn’t end any time soon.”
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Tomorrow’s the big day! Truth, Dare, Double Dare, Promise or Repeat: On Finding the Meaning of “Like” in 1982, a bit of autobiographical fiction about the year I turned 15 and learned to French kiss, is coming out! I’m so excited! Interested in helping an indie author? Here are a few ideas:
- Mention my book on your social media forum of choice: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, WordPress.
- If you purchase it, use that little feature Amazon provides to “tell your friends about it.”
- If you download the Kindle version for free on Amazon Prime or Kindle Unlimited, read it (authors only get credit if you read the book, not just download it).
- Add it to your to-read list on Goodreads.
- If you read it, review it on Amazon or Goodreads.
- Suggest reading it at your book club.
Fans, you’re awesome! Thanks for following!