"Deborah A. Lott’s Don’t Go Crazy Without Me is funny, horrifying, and heartbreaking—and often surprisingly, all three at once. It’s an astonishingly vivid book, and to read it is to be caught up, just as the writer was, in an impossible, crazy, misfit family. Through grace and nerve and will, Deborah learns that you can’t 'screw nature,' or 'stop time,' as her father tried to do, 'but you could turn your grief into love.' This writer’s love for her deeply screwed-up family is unforgettable. As the best memoirs do, Don’t Go Crazy Without Me makes this writer’s story belong to all of us." —Mark Doty, National Book Award Winner, author of the memoirs Firebird, Dog Years, Heaven’s Coast, and multiple volumes of poetry
"Don’t Go Crazy Without Me is an extraordinary book. Deborah A. Lott writes about everything—parents, children, bodies, illness, sex, writing—with a voice that is utterly clear and beautiful and funny and original. This is a book written with honesty that will both break your heart and enlarge it." —Karen E. Bender, National Book Award Finalist and author of A Town of Empty Rooms, Refund, and Like Normal People
"Hilarious, devastating, and compassionate: Deborah A. Lott’s Don’t Go Crazy Without Me is written with a ferocious intelligence; it pulverizes memoir as we knew it. This is glorious work by a writer working at the height of her power." —Paul Lisicky, author of The Narrow Door and Lawnboy
"Sentence by sentence, Deborah A. Lott is one of the finest writers I know. Her keen insights into the dynamics of her quirky, unforgettable family, and into family dynamics in general, make this book bound to be a classic." —Hope Edelman, author of Motherless Daughters
"Brilliantly written with grace, generosity, and a highly refined sense of the absurd, Don’t Go Crazy Without Me is the harrowing account of a chaotic, bewildering childhood. This reader was enthralled from the get-go, and Deborah A. Lott is now one of my favorite writers—I kiss the hem of her garment." —Abigail Thomas, author of Safekeeping, Three Dog Night, and What Comes Next and How to Like It
"[A] courageous and endearing memoir." —Jonathan Kirsch, Jewish Journal
"A vivid, compelling, and highly provocative read, Don’t Go Crazy Without Me truly showcases the memoir as an art form. Dense scene after dense scene fill the pages. Lott’s pacing of information and big reveals feel spot-on. Because of masterful characterization and tender insight—especially within the chapters where the adult narrative voice enters—I grew to love the characters, even as I feared for Lott and her father’s increasingly erratic behavior."—Jody Keisner, The Adroit Journal
"Anyone can have a peculiar childhood, and many can even tell amusing stories about it, but how many find their voices, and 'write' themselves?" —Bettina Berch, The Jewish Book Council
"Don’t’ Go Crazy Without Me is an earnest look at a misfit family struggling financially and emotionally in the 1950s and 1960s in California. Place and time weave through these eccentric characters’ lives. What makes us laugh in this book also makes us cry." —Claire Donohue Roof, Brevity
A daughter grows up in the whirlwind of her overbearing father.
Once misdiagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, Lott (Creative Writing/Antioch Univ., Los Angeles; In Session: The Bond Between Women and Their Therapists, 1999) recounts growing up with a father whose craziness seemed infectious. "My father and I were not ordinary," writes the author; "oh no, we had formed an alliance around being extraordinary." In Lott's noisily dysfunctional family, she and her father, Ira, bonded against her mother and brothers, who thought Ira was irritating, infuriating, and more than a little eccentric. Ira coveted his daughter's attentions, making her his confidante, flattering her looks and talent. She was a genius, he insisted, and he would gain fame and fortune as the genius father of a child prodigy. Lott adored him, even when he treated her "like an adult playmate, like a collaborator." She refused to see him as others did: a bizarre neurotic. Usually wearing nothing but underwear, Ira was a jokester, an exhibitionist, and a narcissist who hogged the center of attention. He was also a hypochondriac, intensely focused on what he thought were symptoms of dire diseases and hypersensitive "to any minor shift in the environment." While Ira complained with "operatic intensity" about various physical ailments, the children strived to get their mother's attention by complaining even more loudly: of severe allergic reactions, mysterious rashes, and rare strains of salmonella, despite Ira's "relentless attempts to protect us from food poisoning." Ira did have some serious health problems, including asthma, borderline diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity; through the years, he became addicted to painkillers and sleeping pills, supplied by "a sympathetic and equally addicted local pharmacist." After his mother died, Ira descended into depression, refusing to shower, shave, get dressed, work, or eat anything but "soft foods suitable to a toddler's palate." He became obsessed with death and dying, and since Lott was viscerally in tune to his needs, she became obsessed, too, pushed almost to the brink of sanity.
A candid, unsettling family portrait of madness and enduring love.