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All That You Leave BehindReview - All That You Leave Behind
A Memoir
by Erin Lee Carr
Ballantine Books, 2019
Review by Christian Perring
Aug 13th 2019 (Volume 23, Issue 33)

The Amazon review by ERB sums up most of my reactions to Erin Lee Carr's memoir. She is now in her early 30s, and is a successful documentary maker for HBO and other media companies. Her book is a love letter to her father David Carr, author of his addiction memoir Night of the Gun and media correspondent for the New York Times. David Carr, a serious smoker, died of lung cancer at the age of 58.  Going back to my own review of David Carr's memoir, I had forgotten how much I disliked the book for his writing style and his lack of insight into his own problems. Erin Lee Carr's memoir spends a lot of time talking about her father's death and her difficulty coping with it; it also functions as a record of her own career and her struggle with alcohol and drugs. It is a book that presents the readers with challenges: she portrays  herself as a figure with many friends but who is hard to like. There is plenty of humble-bragging, and the book is full of her father's effusive praise for her. While it is nice to see how supportive he was, we also see how much he helped her out with his media connections. She details many times when she got drunk and high and messed things up, which gets pretty tiresome when the book has done little to give her readers a reason to care. It's nearly all about her and her father's support of her, and there's not much reason for anyone apart from her friends and family to want to read about it all. She takes pains to make clear that she is not close to her step-mother Jill Rooney, and one wonders both how Rooney feels about her step-daughter writing this in public, and how Erin's two sisters feel about it. Indeed, one wonders how the sisters react to Carr spending so much time detailing their father's praise of her. We are given very little information about their lives except that her sister Meagan has gone into the mental health field. This reinforces the sense that Carr is still ready to ride roughshod over other people's feelings when she can further her own agenda.

Of course, one might admire Carr for being unflinchingly frank about herself and her self-defeating actions. One might admire her for her efforts to gather information about coping with a beloved parent's early death in a way that helps those who don't go for popular psychology and self-help books. One has to admit that Carr has achieved a good amount on her own, both in her career and in her efforts to overcome her dependency on alcohol and drugs. Some Amazon reviews of her book are very positive, and not just the ones written by family friends. As I was reading through All That You Leave Behind, I often had a strong sense of antipathy towards Carr followed by an internal questioning whether it was fair to react so negatively, and other reviews indicate similar responses. So there's something provocative and distinctive about Carr's writing that elicits this response, and one might even speculate that at some level, that's a response she is aiming to get. That may say something about her own character, but it also highlights a strength in her writing, with her ability to draw the reader in and make them react to her story, even if the process involves, to use ERB's evocative word, "hatereading."

 

 


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