Pantheon Books 2015
Lucas Mann’s memoir, “Lord Fear,” takes a different twist: Rather than relating his own personal life, Mann collates fragments about his drug-addicted brother’s life from interviews with family and friends along with the brother’s journal entries to fashion a haunting narrative.
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“. . . an honest narrative about a troubled person . . .”
Mann writes that when he reminisced about his brother Josh, who died from a heroin overdose, he thought of “danger and fear and power and appetite and joy,” a metaphor for the eight-foot boa constrictor Josh allowed to roam freely in his apartment.
Persons who knew Josh held widely different perceptions of him. Josh’s babysitter recalled a time when Josh at age 13 tortured his pet cat. Josh’s brother, Dave, spoke of violent bullying inflicted on him by Josh. Beth, Josh’s mother, often blaming herself, feared her son, yet she continuously defended him and cared for him the numerous times he attempted to detox. Josh’s father adored his son, and attempted to get close to him. A cousin, who despite his own tortures at Josh’s hands, still loved him and would laugh about the day Josh gagged him and taped his naked body to a chair and put him in an elevator. Two other women interviewed saw Josh as a lost person, needing reassurance, saying they both loved him.
Mann questions himself for needing to piece together Josh’s life. Perhaps, he writes, that his impulse was to want to know more, to confirm for himself that Josh was “someone worth knowing, worth feeling,” and be certain his life was important and “ended unjustly.”
Josh was a writer, poet, and musician, but mostly he was just a drug addict who lived in an apartment paid for by his father and who took joy in hurting people. In a final flash of rebelliousness, he had a swastika tattooed, an obvious affront to his Jewish family.
In the introduction, Mann writes that the fragments of memory are often contradictions, and his images of what occurred were subjective. Yet Mann has composed an honest narrative about a troubled person, though the reader never learns if Josh’s mental state was properly analyzed by medical professional because he wasn’t always an addict but rather a troubled child who became one.
Reviewer: Kate Padilla