Monday, September 21, 2020
News, analysis and commentary by UBC Journalism students


Busted and Booked

Hallelujah, the spoken word is not dead. Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, has launched a new and improved…


Hallelujah, the spoken word is not dead. Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, has launched a new and improved book section in print. The Globe has also launched a new website that talks about books, books that are printed on paper and bound and usually held in the hands and read in various places like bed, a living room armchair by the fire and the beach.

This is good news for me as I am about two thirds of the way through my autobiography under the professional mentorship of Betsy Warland, the director of The Writer’s Studio at Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University.

There seems to be a possibility that I could finish my book before books become obsolete. More good news is that some of my subject matter seems to be quite in vogue now, thanks to James Frey and A Million Little Pieces (Anchor Books, Random House). His wildly successful and wildly exaggerated A Million Little Pieces seemed to have whet an appetite for personal memoirs related to alcoholism and addiction, issues that have also stung my life.

As I am a journalist I am sensitive to, and curious about, Frey’s lackadaisical approach to the facts and am drawn to two more recent publications written by journalists; Beautiful Boy (Houghton Mifflin) by David Sheff, and David Carr’s The Night of the Gun, A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of his Life, His Own (Simon and Schuster).

As Frey discovered, one of the problems about memoirs is the memory part, especially if the one writing the story is trying to remember times already clouded by drugs and alcohol.

As David Carr says, “We tell the world the part of our selves we want to show.” I will take that a step further and say that we often only remember the part of our selves we want to show the world. As Carr discovers while researching his book, he thought that on the night in question (of the gun) his buddy was the one with the gun. On further journalistic investigation he discovered that Carr himself was the one with the gun.

David Carr is one of those writers whose choreography of the English language is stunning. If for no other reason than that, I highly recommend it. I have not finished The Night of the Gun and am so far disappointed that Carr seems to be offering no explanation as to why he went so far off the rails: you know, the stuff about the dysfunction, normally alcohol related, of the family of origin.

So far, it is a well written series of misadventures and catastrophes with no insight into its antecedents. I would like to hear from readers, who have finished The Night of the Gun, if I can look forward to more profound analysis.

Meanwhile you can look forward to, in my blog, a review of the 2008 bestseller Beautiful Boy and musings about where all this fits into new journalism and new new journalism .