t's not immediately clear when you get to the end of NYT columnist David Carr's new book, The Night of the Gun, whether you've just seen the memoir redeemed or irrevocably dismantled. A work of traditional reportage motivated by the fashionable and unnerving notion that it's impossible to really know anything for sure, Mr. Carr's book--which arrives in bookstores next week--turns the traditional memoir on its head, assuming as it does that its author knows nothing about his own life and must research it as though it were someone else's. The book practically interrogates itself, questioning its own right to exist even as Mr. Carr vigilantly gathers string on the dark and druggy life he led into his 30s. Are any of the glitchy, fractured memories he has from those days true? Are his sources--the dealers who sold him his cocaine, the friends who watched with horror as he injected it into his veins, the fellow junkies who stood over stoves with him while he cooked it into crack--any more reliable?
Mr. Carr thinks they are, but only when their recollections are considered in relation to each other's. "You can't know the whole truth," as he puts it, "but if there is one it lies in the space between people."
The truth is out there, in other words, but it's in pieces. And if we want to understand ourselves, our world, what happened, and what might, every effort must be taken to reconstruct it. This is the guiding principle of Mr. Carr's book, and at a time when the idea that facts actually matter seems to have disappeared into the vortex of the Bush Administration, James Frey and Margaret Jones, it is, unmistakably, a rallying cry.