Life with father isn’t easy—not when father is the one-time drug addict David Carr, noted journalist and author of the searing memoir Night of the Gun (2008).
Documentary filmmaker Carr delivers an affecting memoir of growing up under decidedly difficult circumstances—e.g., being left in a freezing car in her snowsuit while her father checked into a crack den to get high. But that’s just part of it. Carr the elder turned his life around when it dawned on him that two unhealthy parents were not good for two budding daughters, even if he sublimated his addictions with too many cigarettes, too much coffee, and too much work in the quest for the Pulitzer Prize that, as a reporter and critic for the New York Times, always eluded him. The combination, plus the years of hard living, killed him: “58,” writes the author. “Who dies that young? No one had ever prepared me for his dying that young.” True, but he did prepare his daughter well for life as a writer, giving her the same lessons he gave to his many university students about being honest with oneself and working the phones rather than relying on email. “What will set you apart,” he wrote, “is not talent but will and a certain kind of humility, a willingness to let the world show you things that you play back as you grow as an artist. Talent is cheap.” Carr is relentless in describing the chemical failings that the world revealed to her, especially in reliance on alcohol, which she’s quit. She’s also very good in distilling the lessons her father taught her without being sentimental: “When it comes time to pimp your own stuff, you have credibility” is vintage Carr, in all its tough-guy–ism, and ought to inspire other young would-be journalists and writers as they pay their dues.
A moving and unflinching paean to a man who died at the top of his game: “Sort of a mic drop, really.”