His Story Told His Way
He is hated, worshiped, and feared. His music has been the subject of public protests, boycotts, and bans. He has been arrested and even made the subject of a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing. He is Brian Warner, aka Marilyn Manson, one of the biggest and most controversial stars in rock music today. In his autobiography, The Long Hard Road Out of Hell, Manson recounts his life story, details his controversial philosophies, and protests that he is reviled for all the wrong reasons.
Just as Manson's career differs from that of the average rock 'n' roller, so does The Long Hard Road stand apart from the typical "my life with the band" memoir. Instead, it is a raw, unflinching account of Manson's metamorphosis from a frustrated, forward-thinking Christian schoolboy to his current self-proclaimed status of Anti-Christ Superstar. Be forewarned: Manson's tale, rife with sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, and violence, is not for the squeamish, but it is a fascinating account of his struggle to be heard in a society he perceives as being unforgivably complacent.
Manson grew up in Ohio and attended a fundamentalist Christian school through the beginning of his tenth-grade year. This constraining, rigid environment fostered his earliest acts of rebellion; even as a teenager, he was able to intellectualize the absurdity of the school's practices: "If our hair touched our ears, it had to be cut. Everything was regimented and ritualistic, and no one was allowed to stand out as better than or different from anyone else.Itwasn't very useful preparation for the real world: turning all these graduates loose every year with the expectation that life will be fair and everyone will be treated equally." Manson's home life was no relief: His father was an abusive Vietnam veteran and his mother, in Manson's view, wanted nothing more than to perpetuate her son's dependence on her.
Fortunately for Manson, he was irrepressibly creative, and in a chapter entitled "The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Rejection Letters," he shares samples of his earliest efforts at short stories and poetry, none of which were accepted for publication. He eventually managed a fledgling career as a music journalist but remained frustrated: "The problem wasn't the magazines or my writing, but the musicians themselves. Each successive interview I did, the more disillusioned I became. Nobody had anything to say. I felt like I should be answering the questions instead of asking them. I wanted to be on the other side of the pen." Manson's rapid ascension from music writer to fame-bound musician is illustrated by his recollection of conducting an interview with industrial music-master Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails): "The next time Reznor came to town," Manson writes, "I was his opening act."
Manson's road to fame was paved with bad relationships, drug abuse, run-ins with the police, dangerously extreme backstage behavior, infighting among his bandmates, and the struggle to find and maintain his personal and artistic integrity within the music industry. Particularly memorable is his account of his meetings with Anton LaVey, the controversial founder of the Church of Satan (one of Manson's many stops along the path to finding his own moral and philosophical code). Manson often comes across as arrogant, and perhaps never more so than when he explains his identification with LaVey: "In a way, [LaVey's] kind of intellectual elitism (and mine) is actually politically correct because it doesn't judge people by race or creed but by the attainable, equal opportunity criterion of intelligence."
As one reads this frank and absorbing book, which also features Manson's personal photographs, excerpts from his tour journal, and examples of the propaganda spread by those who would silence him, one senses a genuine thoughtfulness on the part of its author, a yearning for self-understanding and growth. He spares no detail, no matter how unflattering, of his journey, and reveals himself as both egotistical and self-loathing, brilliant and foolish.
Alternately enlightening and disturbing, The Long Hard Road Out of Hell is, at its heart, a coming-of-age story. As Manson tells it, journalists, fans, and critics persistently ask him if his persona is an act or if it is genuine; this autobiography provides an opportunity for us to answer that question for ourselves.