Lachenmeyer, Nathaniel 1969–
Lachenmeyer, Nathaniel 1969–
PERSONAL: Born 1969; son of Charles (a professor) and Juliana (a psychologist) Lachenmeyer; married. Education: Attended University of Chicago.
ADDRESSES: Home—Washington, DC. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Thunder's Mouth Press, 245 W. 17th St., 11th Fl., New York, NY 10011-5300.
CAREER: Comic-book writer and author of nonfiction; lecturer on mental-health and homelessness issues.
The Outsider: A Journey into My Father's Struggle with Madness, Broadway Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Thirteen: The Story of the World's Most Popular Superstition, Thunder's Mouth Press (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Nathaniel Lachenmeyer gives frequent lectures on mental health and the homeless. His first book, The Outsider: A Journey into My Father's Struggle with Madness, chronicles Lachenmeyer's attempt to understand the progression of his father's mental illness. Charles Lachenmeyer suffered from schizophrenia, a disease that left his son frightened of him as a child and later led him to cut his father out of his life entirely. Charles's difficulties began with the loss of his job as a professor of sociology at New York's Hunter College in the mid-1970s, and continued until he left his wife and child in 1981. In 1995, Lachenmeyer was notified that his father had been found in a flophouse in Burlington, Vermont, dead from a heart attack. Father and son had been estranged for more than five years. Struck by the loss, Lachenmeyer took a camera crew and set out to try and trace his father's last few years in an effort to understand what had happened. He used the return addresses on letters to find the people his father had associated with, including a number of doctors and nurses who could provide more precise information on the man's medical history. Charles had subsisted on government assistance and disability for years before a bureaucratic mix up left him penniless and living on the streets. When Lachenmeyer visited the area in which Charles died, he found that most of the local shop keepers, as well as their patrons, were familiar with his father.
The book is a compilation of numerous interviews Lachenmeyer conducted over the course of his quest. Gilbert Taylor, in a review for Booklist, called Lachenmeyer's effort "a consolingly powerful memoir, especially to readers with a mentally ill parent." A contributor for Publishers Weekly remarked that the book is "a heartrending portrait of a man whose emotional illness eventually robbed him of everything, counterbalanced in part by the author's gradual understanding of the plight of homeless people," and a reviewer for Psychology Today stated that Lachenmeyer's work "takes us on a spiraling descent into poverty, estrangement and isolation."
Lachenmeyer's follow-up effort is a more light-hearted work, Thirteen: The Story of the World's Most Popular Superstition. The book traces the history of triskaidekaphobia, or the fear of the number thirteen. Lachenmeyer discusses various supposed origins of this fear, including the most popular origin, which is linked to the number of people in attendance at the biblical Last Supper. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews called the book "fast-paced and entertaining," while a reviewer for Library Bookwatch remarked that Lachenmeyer combines "fine historical insights" and "a fun survey of present-day phobic reactions."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 2000, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Outsider: A Journey into My Father's Struggle with Madness, p. 1183.
Contemporary Review, April, 2005, review of Thirteen: The Story of the World's Most Popular Superstition, p. 255.
Internet Bookwatch, February, 2005, review of Thirteen.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2004, review of Thirteen, p. 790.
Library Bookwatch, February, 2005, review of Thirteen.
Library Journal, February 1, 2000, Mary Ann Hughes, review of The Outsider, p. 105.
Psychology Today, March-April, 2002, "On Sexuality, Spirituality, Schizophrenia, and More," p. 77.
Publishers Weekly, February 7, 2000, review of The Outsider, p. 74.
Time, April 4, 1997, James Willwerth, "This Is My Father's Life: Film Crew in Tow, a Son Retraces His Dad's Descent into Homelessness," p. 4.