Sunday July 20, 2008
David Carr: How That Guy became This Guy
I was surprised a few weeks ago when, in his Monday media column — this one on the dirty tricks Fox News pulls on rival reporters — David Carr wrote about being called a crack addict on Bill O’Reilly’s show, then added, “which at least has the virtue of being true, if a little vintage.”
Carr? A crack addict? I didn’t know. I shrugged and moved on.
This morning, rifling through the Sunday New York Times, I glanced at the cover of the Magazine — not my favorite section lately — which displayed a series of three mug shots and the title “My Years of Living Dangerously.” I assumed the mug shots revealed the subject’s regression, the awful affect drugs had on someone, but, no, the third photo didn’t look much different than the first: Just a curly haired guy, slightly overweight. In fact, only two years separated first and third photos. So what was the point? Then I saw David Carr's byline. Whoa. I didn’t even recognize him. Which is the point.
The article, an excerpt from his upcoming memoir The Night of the Gun, is Carr’s attempt to reconcile his two selves. He writes: “Here is what I deserved: hepatitis C, federal prison time, H.I.V., a cold park bench, an early, addled death. Here is what I got: the smart, pretty wife, the three lovely children, the job that impresses. Here is what I remember about how That Guy became This Guy: not much.”
So he becomes investigative reporter of himself. He interviews the people he knew and examines the gap between their stories and his. You don’t have to be a former crack addict for this to be worthwhile — we all have our stories and most of us stick to them — but, as Carr says, addicts are particularly good at storytelling and mythmaking: “You spread versions of yourself around, giving each person the truth he or she needs — you need, actually — to keep them at a remove.”
There are many (and no) answers to how That Guy became This Guy, but I was particularly intrigued by this section:
Eden House was a long-term therapeutic community, the kind of place that brimmed with slogans. This was the main one: “The answer to life is learning to live.”
This is the point where the knowing author laughs along with his readers about his time among the aphorisms, how he was once so gullible and needy that he drank deeply of such weak and fruity Kool-Aid. That’s some other story. Slogans saved my life. All of them — the dumb ones, the imperatives, the shameless, witless ones.
I lustily chanted some of those slogans and lived by others. There is nothing romantic about being a crackhead and a drunk — low-bottom addiction is its own burlesque that needs no snarky annotation. Unless a person is willing to be terminally, frantically earnest, all hope is lost.