At What Omission, Redemption?New York Times columnist David Carr has led a life that involved significant deviations from the beaten path, as chronicled in his new book The Night of the Gun. In it, he writes about his descent into serious addiction, poverty, rehab and eventual redemption as the full custodial parent of his twin girls, decent husband, New York Times columnist, etc., etc. One thing the extensively documented book touches on, but that he admits he and his editors cut short, was Carr's misogynistic behavior. Carr beat his girlfriend, he beat the mother of his children, and, by his own admission, he used and abused women "pathologically." But, in the end, while his mistreatment of his infant daughters, his own body and his family are extensively chronicled without embarrassment, Carr's redemption story leaves out plenty of his behavior toward women in that period of his life.Carr's book documents some of the lows of his behavior, but those who read early versions thought it best to leave much of that out.
So unlovely was his behavior that readers of early drafts of his book recommended he skip certain stories — they tapped the narrative off its orbit, rendering him less good guy than brute. "People said, 'There's enough sort of misogyny and objectification without this kind of fratty stuff,' " he said. "It made me seem like a thug and a player, and that was one tick of grossness too many."
The question is — grossness too many for what? For readers to feel he's worth redeeming? To finish reading his book? For him to be liked? He doesn't really explain. The thing is, he wasn't a good guy then, period. He did bad things, many of them to women, many of them while extremely high (not that it excuses his behavior). That he's turned his life around and (seemingly) makes every effort to treat his wife and daughters — and, one hopes, female relatives, colleagues, acquaintances and basically all of womankind — with respect is good, and important. Have his core values about women and how they ought to be treated changed? Were they, as he implies, a product of his addiction, or did they come from somewhere deeper? Obviously, Carr's not shy about laying bare the fact that there was more to tell. And it's progress, in some way, that his editors and publishers felt that the totality of his abuse of women would, in fact, serve to make him a wholly unsympathetic figure to readers — better than the Tucker Max school of editorial non-discretion, certainly. But can he get — and can readers offer — the kind of redemption and absolution that he's seemingly seeking when they know that his "whole" subjective truth is edited to leave out that which others have decided make him irredeemable? Me And My Girls [NY Times] What Do Crack Cocaine and Journalism Have in Common? [NY Magazine]