July 30, 2008

A supposedly true story

  • About the author EB

I’m not a big fan of memoirs. There are exceptions, of course, but I find that I often end up wishing the writer had just sucked it up and stopped whining. Or I end up bored. Drug memoirs are probably my least favorite. Everyone knows stories about being high are only funny to other people who are high, and often they have a self-congratulatory tone (I did xx drugs and I’m still here! Using drugs was so hard, but I survived!) that appalls me. I think I will make an exception, however, for The Night of the Gun, David Carr’s new memoir of his life of drug addiction. I first heard about it a few weeks ago but just read an article about his unusual (or maybe not, if you read the comments) reporting method. Assuming that his drug-addled memories were unreliable, Carr approached the story of his life as a reporter, seeking out sources to verify facts.

It’s an interesting tactic, and one that may prevent some backlash (and get him a whole lot of publicity), but I do wonder if there are events in the book that could not be confirmed, times when recollections did not collide. Our own Ecco/Perennial author Rachel Sontag, whose House Rules details her life in her father’s terrifying grasp, had to deal with her parents’ angry reactions (and even angrier Amazon reviews) when her book was published, and I’m curious to see if there is anything that could engender a similar experience for Carr.

Oh, and even though I’m not a memoir-lover, here are a few that more than pass muster with me:

Wasted: Marya Hornbacher has a new memoir, about her struggles with manic depression, out now, but this classic is about her struggles with eating disorders. Brave, brilliant, uncensored and unhinged.

Jubilee City: reminded me of The Basketball Diaries, another favorite.

The Tender Land: Not just a favorite memoir, but one of my favorite books of all time, it details the suicide of the author’s 15-year-old brother and its aftermath for her Irish-Catholic family. It’s notable in my reading history for the fact that it took me way longer than usual to read the last 50 pages, because I was sobbing so hard I couldn’t breathe.