Don’t Go Crazy With­out Me: A Tragi­com­ic Memoir

Read­ing Deb­o­rah Lott’s mem­oir of her dys­func­tion­al upbring­ing feels like the lit­er­ary equiv­a­lent of rub­ber­neck­ing: her child­hood was a series of train­wrecks, but some­how you can’t stop turn­ing around to watch. Lott was the youngest of three chil­dren; her moth­er was sta­ble, but her father, Ira, was exces­sive. A hypochon­dri­ac, a fan­ta­sist, a nar­cis­sist – the man knew no bound­aries, nei­ther phys­i­cal nor men­tal. And he made Deb­o­rah his side­kick, his con­fi­dante, his ally against his wife’s attempts to nor­mal­ize him.

When her sto­ry starts, Deb­o­rah is four and the coun­ter­man at the post office has just died, and Ira is insist­ing that since this is her ​“first death,” she should try to remem­ber it for­ev­er. Then she’s in bed with her par­ents, feel­ing cozy with her daddy’s hairy chest and his big bel­ly and his ​“fun­ny” poke-his-moles games, and yes, you feel an instinc­tive ​“eeeuw” ris­ing up. But not only is young Deb­o­rah not­both­ered by her father’s casu­al undress, she is intrigued by prob­lem­at­ic aspects of his physique — his deformed fin­gers and his uneven legs. Before long, you’re in the kitchen with this man, who has decid­ed to cre­ate a buf­fet from canned spaghet­ti, Hormel tamales, and tinned sar­dines, which brings up his bot­u­lism the­o­ries, and before long he’s throw­ing out one can after anoth­er because it doesn’t make a lit­tle ​“pffft” sound when it’s pierced. Even worse, he’s roped Deborah’s old­er broth­er into inspect­ing all the cans, and soon you won­der if they will ever get any­thing to eat. Actu­al­ly, not only does Ira eat con­tin­u­al­ly, there’s a ter­ri­fy­ing scene in a Las Vegas restau­rant, when the rest of the fam­i­ly wants to leave after break­fast so they can explore the casi­nos, but Ira talks his daugh­ter into eat­ing a sec­ond full break­fast with him, just to fore­stall the family’s foray.

Read the full review here.