Is there a name for a prop that recovering addicts keep around to remind them of their former selves? You know, a memento of the bad old days: a shard of glass, a cop's report, a cirrhotic liver, a broken mind.
Or a book: In David Carr's case, an account of his years of brown liquor, white rock, and needle marks in the neck, years as remembered by himself, somewhat -- with the gaps filled in and well-placed inaccuracies corrected by fellow travelers, innocent bystanders, and collateral victims of his multi-decade experiment with controlled substances.
It's a memory aid, a means of describing your self to yourself.
Carr appears to have needed it, like most of us do. In our memories, where time bends and loops, we are the authors of our own personal histories. We suit our memories to the stories that most suit us. None of us bother to check the facts. But Carr has, going back to bosses he screwed over, friends he caroused with, lovers that, it turns out, he hit. They help him fill in the gaps: How many times did I drop out of treatment? On the night of the gun, who, again, was brandishing it? Why in the world did you give me another chance?
In recalling his own dark days, he's also written a personal history of the drug underworld of the '80s -- which the longtime journalist might have been interested in reporting on then, if his place in it hadn't been so compromising. His ex-girlfriend and the mother of his twin daughters was the world's most petite coke dealer, a Minneapolis homeowner who, once Carr turned her onto crack, smoked up her close ties with the Medell