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 anytime soon.
—The Night of the Gun
I’ve noticed in reading the tributes to David Carr that he used the word “caper” a lot. He talked about life–sobriety, work, marriage, parenting–like it was a carnival, like it was something he was getting away with. His book, which obviously you should read, is one of the few “addiction memoirs” which make recovery seem more vivid than degradation. I read Night of the Gun toward the end (let’s hope) of my drinking career and copied out big chunks of it into the journal my spiritual director was making me keep. Carr exposed my lies and rationalizations along with his own; but for that exact reason he showed me a future I couldn’t imagine.
There are a lot of revealing moments in that pulpy, hard-fought book; one which stands out to me at the moment is Carr’s treatment of Jayson Blair. He writes about Blair as a friend, a fellow newspaperman, and a fellow addict: Carr’s whole shtik in this book is honesty, and yet he shows so much empathy for a fabulist. But I shouldn’t say “and yet.” The whole book is about the internal pressure to lie to our diaries, to live in a better world than this one and face a kinder jury than the one in our skulls. (Let alone the one on Twitter.) If you’re gonna extend any empathy to the guy who got caught and disgraced early in his career and privately, you need to give it to the guy who wasn’t so lucky.Here are some quotes from Carr on his faith (and see also the thing I quote here). And from Jack Shafer: “A vain but not narcissistic man, Carr would have been the last to leave the party had fate given him any choice in the matter. …He loved to exploit other reporters, and was generous about letting them exploit him, which is unusual in the trade. His generosity, especially with younger journalists, explains the many positive notices his death has received, although most of the young writers will never fully appreciate how much he was nourished by their attention…. Never was there a man who talked so much but listened so well.”
Anyway, I don’t have a lot to say except that David Carr’s book helped me. I trust and pray he has found himself another caper.