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Book Review   |    
The Long Hard Road Out of Hell
Kenneth E. Fletcher, Ph.D.; Dorothy Packer-Fletcher, M.F.A.
Psychiatric Services 1999; doi:
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by Marilyn Manson with Neil Strauss; New York City, ReganBooks (HarperCollins), 1998, 269 pages, $24

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The music and antisocial rhetoric of rock musician Marilyn Manson—the stage name of Brian Warner—have apparently resonated with nearly every teenage killer covered by the media over the last several years. Unfortunately, people who read this purported autobiography thinking they are going to learn something profound about the current baddest of the seemingly endless bad boys of rock and roll are deluding themselves. This collection of pages is a worthless waste of trees. Even the bizarre photographs are incomprehensible.

To say this book is disappointing is to understate. It's not even that Mr. Warner is an obnoxious boil on the face of teen culture. It's more that, for all of his reputation for repugnant antisocial behavior, Mr. Warner's presentation of his first 29 years of life turns out to be perplexingly bland and boring.

Part of the problem here may stem from the author's unrelenting lack of willingness to disclose much about himself, a tendency certain to sound a death knell for any autobiographical effort. Actually, there are moments in his bumbling discourse when Mr. Warner reveals he is not simply a mindless noisemaker. Unfortunately, he squanders what might be a fair intelligence on self-justification and silliness. His trite claims that his concerts of mock or real acts (or both) of violence and self-mutilation are his way of declaiming the violence and self-mutilation of modern society are never convincing.

But then he does not make a convincing case for anything in this fractured fairy tale. Tellingly, although he rants endlessly about his self-absorbed angst and artistic struggles, he shares almost nothing about his music. Perhaps this is because his musical lyrics are nearly as tedious as he is, although there is no way to judge from what little of them are presented in this book.

The most consistent picture that one can draw from this awful mishmash is that Mr. Warner may have been a victim of some sort of childhood abuse. Then again, maybe not. He does try to blame some of his behavior on his grandfather's unusual masturbatory practices, although he never accuses his grandfather of any direct sexual interaction with him. In fact, he discovered his grandfather's practices only through spying on him. His worst accusations against his parents are that they were boring. His father, a Vietnam veteran, may have suffered symptoms of posttraumatic stress during his son's youth, and he was sometimes quick to set physical limits. Even the author's bizarre early experiences with fundamentalist Christian education hardly justify his current mincing performance as the Anti-Christ. Overall, the general impression one gets is that Mr. Warner is an infantile, narcissistic, and shallow person who seems to flaunt his poorly controlled impulses.

However, this book is not the best vehicle for becoming acquainted with the man behind the music of Marilyn Manson. Not that an interview by the best psychiatrist in the world would necessarily garner any more insight into the man. At least with the book, you have the choice of putting it down and never returning to it. Better yet, never pick it up in the first place.

Dr. Fletcher is assistant professor of psychiatry and director of the behavioral sciences research core at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester. Ms. Packer-Fletcher is a freelance writer.

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