This week’s book goes a little dark: a memoir of addiction and recovery by celebrated journalist David Carr, who recently lost a battle with cancer (after surviving lymphoma, years ago, an episode that’s detailed in the book). Carr took an unusual vector through his own drug-fueled experience: he employed the skills he developed from years of journalism to interview friends, lovers, family members and acquaintances, in the service of a more objective picture of his own past than any he could assemble from memory alone.
We talk about what makes a book stand out in the overcrowded field of addiction memoirs, and what it is we want when reading about someone’s problems with drugs and alcohol. Carr himself seemed keenly aware of these issues, saying again and again throughout the book that he wanted to resist some of the most well-worn tropes of the genre. We talk about the fine line between unbridled honesty and rolling around gleefully in one’s own shit, and about the kinds of insights we can glean from others’ struggles.
For more about Carr, here’s a particularly beautiful remembrance by Ta-Nehisi Coates for The Atlantic. Coates, in one of his first journalism jobs, worked for Carr at the Washington City Paper, and credits Carr’s mentorship for a big part of his later success.
In the second half of the show we answer some listener mail. A question about whether to submit a story to journals even if it’s not your best work, and how to know when to cut your losses and move on. Plus we’re asked to weigh in on the recent Harper Lee controversy. Though we should note we did so before this happened. Here’s a link to the Electric Literature round-up we mentioned.
Finally, a listener tries to school us on pronunciation, and another takes us to task for giving short shrift to Meatloaf, chronicler of adolescent male sexual frustration and current Vegas act.
As always, you can stream the episode below, by clicking on the little player thingy. Or download the mp3 file and play it through whatever technology you prefer. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or through just about any podcasting app, where you can subscribe (for free!) and never miss another installment.
We’d love to hear your feedback on the things we talked about. You can always send us an email, or hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment right here on the site. Also, if you haven’t yet, please nominate a book for our upcoming bonus episode.
Thanks for listening!
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