I'm probably not alone in affixing a certain emotional importance to the cultural figures I admire. And while it would never be the same as with a friend or family member, when one of these cultural figures passes away, I have an unsurprising emotional reaction to it. Still, I can't always predict the power of that reaction. There are writers whose work I love more than that of the late Hunter S. Thompson. Yet, when they've died, it hasn't affected me as intensely. I vividly remember coming home from a pickup hockey game late one night about ten years ago, reading the news of Hunter's suicide and just putting my head on my desk in sorrow for a good ten minutes. As another example, I've always loved both Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young, but I can say without hesitation that Springsteen's music has always meant more to me. However, I think when they both pass, I can imagine myself being far more upset about Neil Young's death than I will about Springsteen's. It's hard to articulate why that might be, but it may have something to do with my sense that I'm much more comfortable that a world exists that can produce and foster someone as singularly odd and affecting as Neil Young.
I was not expecting to hear that David Carr passed away last night, no more than I was expecting to be so saddened by it. I had never heard of him before seeing him interviewed on "The Colbert Report" right after Night of the Gun was published. I bought and read it immediately, right at the same time I was writing The Big Deal. I had never forced myself to write something that honest before, but to have his model at my fingertips was an immeasurable inspiration. I think the only other thing that had as much as an influence on my writing at the time was re-reading Lorrie Moore's devastating (and devastatingly funny) "People Like That Are the Only Ones Here", as much as a model for humor and perspective as was Carr's tour de force. While the struggles he wrote about are nothing I've ever experienced, his writing still made me feel a connection. After all, we had some things in common -- we both had two daughters we loved immensely. But only one of us wrote an intensely powerful memoir that should be read by anyone wanting to write seriously and movingly about their own lives.
I had read a few more things that David Carr wrote in the last few years, especially once I happily realized he used Twitter to promote new columns I wouldn't have found otherwise. Not having more things to read from him won't be the biggest loss, but it is sad. Sadder though, is the thought that, while he hadn't completely defeated his demons over the span of his memoir, it seemed possible that he had in recent years. And maybe he had. Maybe those past experiences took their toll. Some shit catches up to you. Some shit is just out of your control. We know this quite well, from our experiences with Zoe. Rett Syndrome is out of our family's control. Rett Syndrome may catch up to us. We all think we, and the ones we love, are long for a world that has always had other ideas. The Big Deal suggested that Zoe will have a happy ending. Carr's memoir suggested he might have a happy ending, but if he did, it didn't last long enough.