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Lord Fear: A Memoir Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 12, 2015
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BEST OF YEAR: Selected by Miami Herald, Kirkus Reviews, Largehearted Boy, and Oprah.com
“Both moving and intimate. . . . It’s rare to find a book that reads as if it were written out of necessity. This book is one; absorbing and with an undeniable current of truth.” —Oprah.com
“Mann creates a stunning, and chilling, portrait of the brother he hardly knew. This type of investigation could easily slip into exploitation but doesn’t, because contained in the voice of the adult narrator is the yearning of the eight-year-old boy, who wonders, Why was my brother the way he was? Mann the boy demands an answer; Mann the adult understands he may never know. . . . Lord Fear is Mann’s attempt to make his brother’s untimely death mean something significant, and in doing so, to imbue his own life with deeper meaning.” —Alizah Salario, Los Angeles Review of Books
“In Lord Fear, Mann folds Josh’s writings in with contemplative renderings of his interviews, imbuing those conversations with the buzz and herky-jerky flow of a postmodern detective novel. The result is a nonlinear, scrapbook-style investigative memoir as redolent of the bluesy crime pursuits of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe as it is of the narcotized reveries of William Burroughs.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Lord Fear is not a biography or an elegy or a even a memoir so much as it is a meditation on the function of grace, proof that love can defy all logic, transcend facts or even reality itself until it is almost indistinguishable from faith. . . . Mann’s first book, 2013’s Class A, was a genius piece of narrative reportage. . . . With Lord Fear, although its roots are firmly planted in the soil of fact, Mann allows himself something more akin to a fiction project, in the way that he sends out his imagination to inhabit those whose lives were affected by Josh. . . . The best we can do sometimes is to look at things honestly, describe them as accurately as possible and say to each other, ‘Well, this is really kind of sad, isn’t it? In his sensitivity for these sorts of states, Mann proves himself one of the most talented young nonfiction writers working today.” —Nicholas Mancusi, Miami Herald
“I read this book in a sustained state of near-tears. It’s a masterpiece. . . . Lord Fear is the most evocative treatment of this kind of crooked adolescent male logic that I’ve ever read, and the most affecting elicitation of boys’ conflicted thirst for danger. . . . I read it with gratitude.” —John Lingan, Chicago Tribune
“Lucas Mann’s genre-bending first book, Class A . . . heralded an impressive new talent in narrative nonfiction. Mann’s second book, Lord Fear, reaffirms that talent . . . [and] demonstrates that Mann is a writer who avoids reductionism, instead embracing complexity and uncertainty.” —Heller McAlpin, NPR
“Mann’s compact, almost New-Journalistic attempt to understand his older brother, who died of an overdose when Lucas was 13, isn’t the first or even the tenth bereaved-sibling memoir, but its blend of taut novelistic style and documentary rigor makes it one of the strongest. Mann has a knack for tracking down uncomfortable truths (‘did you love him?’ he asks his brother’s best friend) and burrowing in, like a metaphysical gumshoe, where others would turn away. Mann wants us to know his beautiful mess of a brother better than he ever did.” —Boris Kachka, Vulture, New York Magazine (“8 Books You Need to Read This May”)
“Mann grasps at splinters of spasmodic speculation. His prose jabs at and probes the unknown. You can feel his own life and soul are on the line here. This is an awesome, emotionally riveting memoir.” —Providence Journal
“I know when I’ve found a good book when it slows me down, as Lucas Mann’s Lord Fear did. It’s also a good sign, I find, when the book is hard to describe, as Lord Fear is. On the surface, it’s a memoir about Mann’s enigmatic older brother, who died of a heroin overdose when Mann was thirteen. But it’s more about memory, myth-making, and desire than its plot suggests. Written mainly from the perspectives of those who knew his brother at different points in his life, the book’s scenes, reconstructed from interviews, are delicately rendered and hyper-self aware; with this unflinching, fractured examination of his brother, Mann suggests that writing about and investigating any life produces infinite contradictory representations that orbit around an indefinable center. Mann is driving at how we know that unknowable thing—taking us right up to language’s edge, where we watch him peer over.” —Jeffery Gleaves, Paris Review
“When he was just thirteen, Lucas Mann lost his older brother Josh to a heroin overdose. In his moving and strikingly honest memoir, Lord Fear, Mann interrogates this loss and grapples with the frustrating fragility of memory in attempting to understand a man he deeply adored, but hardly got the chance to know. It is this exquisite tension of knowing and not knowing that lends the book its power and makes it worth sinking your teeth into.” —Esquire (“6 Books You Absolutely Can’t Miss This May”)
“Mann spent nearly 10 years ferreting out this picture of his older half brother, Josh, dead of a drug overdose. Mann was much younger than his blustery, angry brother. The actions that seemed incomprehensible and abnormal to the adults in their lives are seen by the younger Mann as sometimes admirable or brave or normal but scary. Thus, amid the terror found in this book are also moments of joy. . . . Lord Fear treads carefully, but the shards on this path are ever painful.” —Booklist
“I know when I’ve found a good book when it slows me down, as Lucas Mann’s Lord Fear did. It’s also a good sign, I find, when the book is hard to describe, as Lord Fear is. On the surface, it’s a memoir about Mann’s enigmatic older brother, who died of a heroin overdose when Mann was thirteen. But it’s more about memory, myth-making, and desire than its plot suggests. Written mainly from the perspectives of those who knew his brother at different points in his life, the book’s scenes, reconstructed from interviews, are delicately rendered and hyper–self aware; with this unflinching, fractured examination of his brother, Mann suggests that writing about and investigating any life produces infinite contradictory representations that orbit around an indefinable center. Mann is driving at how we know that unknowable thing—taking us right up to language’s edge, where we watch him peer over.” —Jeffery Gleaves, The Paris Review (Staff Picks)
“An ambitious, literary-minded memoir of the author’s relationship with his late brother, a much older heroin addict. Mann works on a number of different levels, delivering a narrative of addiction, memory, and family dynamics; of the attempt to see someone through the eyes and different memories of other people; and of the challenges faced by a writer as he attempts to fulfill his literary ambitions. Ultimately, this is a memoir about trying to write a memoir: the challenge, the impossibility, and the catharsis. . . . In constructing his aching, poignant narrative, Mann offers a fine meditation on fate and on how ‘the story of addiction is the story of memory, and how we never get it right.’” —Kirkus (starred review)
“I loved this book—an artifact of the making of memory. The prose is striking and emotional, and the excavation of the dead brother, the meaning of the life cut short, will resonate with many readers. Lord Fear is a psychological and artistic juggernaut.” —Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead
"The book’s called Lord Fear, but its very existence is testament to its author’s fearlessness in confronting the twined, barbed wires of guilt and grief. Lucas Mann wears many hats in this memoir—journalist, stylist, Nabokovian explorer of sense and memory—but in the end it turns out that they’re all the same hat: survivor. Lucas Mann is a rare talent, and Lord Fear is that rare book which matches intellect with emotional candor, and the human condition is presented in all its nudity and terrifying nuance.” —Adam Wilson, author of What’s Important is Feeling
“A searing, complexly rendered memoir that is at times an investigation of the life and death of Mann’s heroin addict brother, at times a frank meditation on brotherhood. This book is made from the one his brother, a writer, never wrote, and is the book only Mann could write. A triumph.” —Alexander Chee, author of Edinburgh
“This is a disturbing book, and a powerful one, for its honesty, its emotional precision, and most of all for Mann’s ability to probe, accede to, and resist the mythologizing power of memory.” —Joan Wickersham, author of The News from Spain and The Suicide Index
“Lord Fear isn’t just a book about brothers, or addiction, or bereavement—though it is about all of these things, in beautiful and surprising ways; it’s ultimately a book about one man’s fierce and futile desire to fully know his own brother. This is a gorgeous examination of what it means to love someone once he’s gone, what it means to love someone you wish—as Mann puts it so powerfully—could have felt better than he did.” —Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams
“Lucas Mann is the most incredible young memoirist in this country. And in Lord Fear, he’s balancing humor, incisive critique and masterful storytelling as only he can. Every now and then, you read books and know that only one person on earth is skilled and loving enough to be that book’s author. Lord Fear is that book and Lucas Mann is that author.” —Kiese Laymon, author of Long Division
“Like the best memoirs, Lord Fear isn’t really about its author’s life: it’s about his brother, Josh, an addict who died young, and the ways we mythologize and grieve a loss like that. This book is generous, unsentimental, often funny, and always smart; Mann has a striking ability to wring meaning from each moment. To sum it up with something I wrote in the margins: Damn, he can write.” —Justin St. Germain, author of Son of a Gun
“Lord Fear is a hard book—as it should be, as its subject (a brother’s fatal overdose) is hard; reconstructing the life and death of another is hard; families are hard; masculinity edging into misogyny is hard; addiction is hard; remembering is hard; grief is hard. Lucas Mann heads straight into these thickets armed with an uncommon emotional intelligence and the capacity to hold great mysteries, fears, horrors, and sorrows in taut, gripping sentences. This is a moving, frightening, expertly written book that stands at the nexus of imagination, encounter, document, and dirge.” —Maggie Nelson, author of The Art of Cruelty
“This book is achingly tender, violent, bittersweet, and bold. Lucas Mann has told the story of his brother in so unpredictable and enthralling a way that he has opened up the story of memory itself wide enough for a new kind of memoir to emerge.” —John D’Agata, author of About a Mountain
About the Author
LUCAS MANN was born in New York City and received his MFA from the University of Iowa, where he was the Provost’s Visiting Writer in Nonfiction. He is the author of Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere, and his essays and stories have appeared in many publications, including TriQuarterly, Slate, and The Kenyon Review. He teaches writing at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, and lives in Providence, Rhode Island.
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Josh's life, so full of promise, devolves as the insidious effects of heroin slowly tighten their grip around his very being much like his pet boa constrictor slowly grips it prey as it crushes it to death. The metaphors and analogies in Lord Fear are superb as is the writing. The one minor flaw, in my opinion, is that it didn't capture the anger and confrontations that surely would have had to occur as those close to Josh watched him abuse drugs to his detriment, but possibly the family members repressed their anger? Anyway, it is time to let Josh go.
This well written thoughtful and sincere memoir authored by Lucas Mann recalls his half brother Josh who died from a heroin overdose when Mann was 13. The impact of grief and loss, the nature of his death, left rippling effects on Josh's family and friends that endured over time. In addition to his own recollections Mann interviewed close family and friends for this book who knew his brother most.
Josh, described as having a "eye-brow arching cartoony quality" was a very handsome young man, that in addition to family and friends, left behind a string of minority girlfriends who mourned his passing. Sima, his last girlfriend, years later recalled (from the book):... "she will find time in between, she tells me, to light a candle for Josh, the way she did after his funeral. She won't tell her husband or her daughter, because they did not know who Josh is, was, and she doesn't want them to."...
Josh simply wasn't a nice man. As a teen, Josh terrorized a small boy, duct taping him to a chair naked in an elevator, tortured mice before feeding them to his pet boa-constrictor "Percy". He was crude, talking about female parts and mocked his girlfriends behind their backs.
In addition to being a heroin addict, Josh recorded his struggles with anxiety and panic attacks in journals of poetry and music, played the drums, considered himself a musician, though never performed. He never completed writing projects or supported himself. (From the Book)...."Josh writes almost exclusively of hard unfair pasts, and certain triumphant futures. Being high rarely made him want to tell a story of being high. Instead, it made all the other stories better- hardships harder, triumphs more triumphant."... Before his death, Josh had been in rehab at Beth Israel, cared for lovingly after being discharged by his mother Beth.
Mann wrote an unflinchingly honest portrayal of his brothers life, though it seemed to him, a "disservice" for an author to write about the negative characteristics of deceased loved ones. Mann was influenced by Nabokov's "Speak Memory". It was very interesting to follow the stories of family and friends in the years following Josh's passing. Lucas Mann is also the author of "Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere" his stories, essays and articles have been featured in notable publications including The Kenyon Review. He was educated at the University of Iowa, and teaches writing at the University of Massachusetts, he lives in Providence, Rhode Island.
Many thanks to the Seattle Public Library for the loan of this book.
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1. I hesitate to use the word boring when discussing a memoir about the tragic death of a loved one.Read more