The Disappearance of John Lurie
August 18, 2010 10:02 AM   Subscribe

"For friends and fans of John Lurie, there’s a disturbing article in the current issue of The New Yorker. The title of the piece is Sleeping With Weapons (sadly, abstract only for non-subscribers) and it's a strange and sad tale. John has been in hiding for the past 18 months to avoid a former friend who is supposedly stalking him. In addition, he has a mysterious illness that kept him a virtual prisoner in his apartment for six years."

John Lurie (previously) is the leader and founding member of the influential New York jazz band The Lounge Lizards. In the 1980s, Lurie gained more fame by starring in the Jim Jarmusch films Down by Law and Stranger than Paradise. Later, he gained notoriety by hosting the oddly charming television series Fishing with John.

In 2002, John Lurie fell mysteriously ill, and has suffered debilitating and chronic ailments ever since. From the New Yorker article: "His condition was diagnosed as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and about ten other things . . . Lurie finally came to believe that he had chronic Lyme disease - a condition whose very existence, as he wryly acknowledged, was fiercely disputed in the medical community." The mystery disease left him essentially confined to his apartment for six years. Then, one day in 2008, his good friend, the New York artist John Perry, asked Lurie to help him film a pilot episode of a drawing show that Perry was going to call "How to Pose". Because of his ailments, Lurie had difficulty sitting under stage lights for too long, but agreed to help anyway. Perry rented a space for the night and they set to work. Lurie, however, was unable to finish because of his symptoms, and left before the filming was over. (Here is a brief clip of a portion of the show filmed that night.) Perry, who only had access to the room for one night, became more and more enraged over the next few days, and started calling Lurie with vague threats. Lurie, concerned that Perry wished him harm, fled to Grenada, then Los Angeles, then Turkey, then Big Sur, then Palm Springs. He has, for the past two years, essentially fled his own life out of a fear that Perry intends to kill him. The article shows that although Perry has, in fact, consistently harassed Lurie, the risk that Perry poses to Lurie appears to be very slight.

Here is a relatively recent, extensive and wide-ranging interview with John Lurie in which he discusses his career and in which you can see some of Lurie's artwork.

(Though the New Yorker is unavailable online to non-subscribers, I felt the story of Lurie's exile was interesting enough on its own [and Lurie an interesting enough figure] that I figured the story of his illness/disappearance and supplementary links still warranted a post. If the mods or others disagree, I understand.)
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates (61 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
I read this story because it was odd, but I must admit that even as I read it I wondered who would be interested in this tale, and what the interest would be? It seemed to vacillate - was the focus on mental illness? On stalking or threats of violence? On some minor art-world celebrities and where they went? It puzzled me and I put it down with a shrug, assuming that maybe you'd have to have been a fan/follower of Lurie to really get into this story.
posted by Miko at 10:09 AM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

There was a nice projects post about John Lurie recently.
posted by dng at 10:14 AM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have to speculate that if you're interested in art, music, television, fishing, movies or acting, then it seems unlikely that you're not a John Lurie fan.
posted by cmoj at 10:18 AM on August 18, 2010

I've been a Lurie fan since "Stranger Than Paradise," but haven't followed his career much since "Oz." Thanks for this update. It almost reads like a Jarmusch movie.
posted by kidelo at 10:19 AM on August 18, 2010

I love John Lurie! Some years back I saw him play the El Rey in LA. As unfortunately usual in this city the audience included a whole bunch of disrespectful morons who kept talking and laughing loudly into and throughout quiet pieces until John had enough of it. He stopped playing and called out to said morons until they realized he was trying to get their attention. Then he went on to explain the difference between loud and quiet pieces, the differences between LA audiences and audiences elsewhere (I wholeheartedly agree with him) and ultimately told them to shut the fuck up. I wish I could remember his whole rant verbatim because it was cool and funny but then it being delivered by him made it even cooler and funnier.
I guess you just had to be there.
Anyhow, sad to hear he's ill. I was wondering occasionally why he had all but disappeared.
Time to dig out "Fishing with John"... haven't watched it in a while.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:19 AM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I read this and found it interesting for a bit but ultimately wound up thinking him and his former friend were both kind of self-absorbed, self-important dickheads who took fighting over a TV show -- a TV show, for God's sake -- to new depths. Get on with your lives, you losers.
posted by notmydesk at 10:20 AM on August 18, 2010 [6 favorites]

I agree, the piece was a dud. Seems to me Lurie only "disappeared" in the sense that he lived in places other than Manhattan and tried to keep his cell number secret.

Alec Wilkinson's profile of Gil Scott-Heron from the issue before was infinitely more disturbing.
posted by otio at 10:27 AM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have to speculate that if you're interested in art, music, television, fishing, movies or acting, then it seems unlikely that you're not a John Lurie fan.

Oh, come on now. I'm interested in all those things, but that doesn't mean I'm interested in any specific practitioner of any of those art forms. I was a bit put off by the way he was put forward as a Shibboleth of downtown hip - if you're cool and in the know, you care about John Lurie - when in fact, I'm not sure that's at all supportable.
posted by Miko at 10:27 AM on August 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

For a moment I thought this was about John de Lancie.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:28 AM on August 18, 2010

a TV show -- a TV show, for God's sake -

Not even a show - an incomplete and unfunded pilot for a show.

Alec Wilkinson's profile of Gil Scott-Heron from the issue before was infinitely more disturbing.

Agreed, that was upsetting and fascinating. Abstract here, but full text also only available to subscribers (or at your local library).
posted by Miko at 10:29 AM on August 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

Miko, if you don't know Lurie, then I can recommend the first Lounge Lizards album and the film Down By Law. They are both classics and may help you put this story in better context.
posted by jtron at 10:32 AM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I thought this article represented some of New Yorker's worse tendencies: insularity that can resemble provincialism, and the assumption that the subject's cult-celeb status in the literate set somehow made his endless, petty, byzantine squabbles worth my time.
posted by coelecanth at 10:33 AM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Alec Wilkinson's profile of Gil Scott-Heron from the issue before was infinitely more disturbing.

Agreed. I really wasn't expecting casual mentions of someone lighting up a crack pipe to show up in New Yorker articles.
posted by ambrosia at 10:36 AM on August 18, 2010

(sadly, abstract only for non-subscribers)

The New Yorker's subscription price is quite reasonable, and worth it. Nothing sad at all about its contents being available only to subscribers.
posted by headnsouth at 10:37 AM on August 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

Similar kinds of drama have followed some of my own friends and acquaintances over the years. Unfortunately (or fortunately) it doesn't get written about in the New Yorker.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:37 AM on August 18, 2010

Miko, if you don't know Lurie,

No, I'm old enough to know about him & the Lounge Lizards and in fact was growing up near NYC during the time that scene was being established. It's not lack of context, it's just not my cup of tea, I guess - and the way thr profile was written didn't do that magic that makes you say "huh, I didn't think I cared about this topic, but the way the writer is handling it is bringing out new perspectives for me."

But thanks.
posted by Miko at 10:40 AM on August 18, 2010

Reading the front page blurb made me think the friend he was hiding from was Tom Waits seeking revenge for that Fishing With John episode.

I'm a big fan of all his work, so this is depressing to hear. I really hope things get better for him.
posted by ecurtz at 10:41 AM on August 18, 2010 [5 favorites]

Loved Down By Law. Much more interested in Tom Waits than Lurie. But interesting story none the less.
posted by Splunge at 10:43 AM on August 18, 2010

I read this article too, and I thought it was interesting. I didn't know who he was.
posted by chocolatetiara at 10:48 AM on August 18, 2010

read the abstract, not the article; sounded like gossip & speculation to me.
posted by msconduct at 11:08 AM on August 18, 2010

My first introduction to him was Fishing with John. It blew me away. The Willam Defoe episode gets me every time.
posted by dig_duggler at 11:08 AM on August 18, 2010

Ack. Willem Dafoe
posted by dig_duggler at 11:09 AM on August 18, 2010

Anyone who made a TV show that gets released by the movie-centric Criterion Collection (I have the Fishing with John CC DVD) is not an unknown. Unknown to some, sure, but he's far from a nobody.
posted by inturnaround at 11:36 AM on August 18, 2010

I could be more specific about my criticism. Jon Lee Anderson establishes that Lurie is an artist whose work is significant enough to care about, but he doesn't draw any connection between this conflict and Lurie's art. Because of that, this becomes a story about a famous person, rather than an artist. It's less compelling -- possibly not compelling -- that way. If this is just going to be a story about a famous person, it shouldn't be told until it's over, which this story doesn't seem to be.
posted by coelecanth at 11:51 AM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have the Fishing with John CC DVD

Me too, and I'll admit my first thought when I read here that he had a mysterious medical condition was of the scene with Dennis Hopper in Thailand where they ordered those smoothies and then realized they were full of ice cubes made from water they shouldn't be drinking.
posted by Kirk Grim at 11:55 AM on August 18, 2010

Lurie, concerned that Perry wished him harm, fled to Grenada, then Los Angeles, then Turkey, then Big Sur, then Palm Springs.

Wow, I never thought of recommending this approach to dealing with a stalker. I should've recommended it to my sister- maybe her ex-boyfriend wouldn't have been able to shoot her in the head.

Oh, except that my sister was a single mom on welfare, with four kids. Maybe the New Yorker could do a story about her.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 12:20 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

While I am really sorry to read about your sister ethnomethodologist, but if your complaint is that the New Yorker only writes about famous people with the means to travel I would posit a) you don't read much of the New Yorker and b) maybe it sucks, but most of the media write about people who are better known and/or have more resources than 'normal' people. While I thought the article was pretty boring, didn't bother finishing it when my copy of the NY arrived, and I have no interest in Lurie, criticising the magazine for writing about this stalking case and not an 'average' stalking case doesn't make much sense to me.
posted by Megami at 12:32 PM on August 18, 2010

read the abstract, not the article; sounded like gossip & speculation to me.

That is an odd statement. I read the article and it's not some National Enquire thing. John Lurie and John Perry had a falling out. Perry was angry about it and apparently threatened Lurie with numerous crank calls. Lurie was freaked out and left the city. At the same time Lurie became very ill. He has gotten better but he is essentially still on the run. It's an interesting article. Not least because Lurie disappeared and this article explains why.

Gossip fodder perhaps, but where do you get the speculation part? The article has merit even if Lurie is completely paranoid. Saying it is speculation makes the assumption that the article is written only for the purpose of titillation with no investigation. But, in fact, the author spent time with Lurie and Perry getting good background info.
posted by Rashomon at 12:49 PM on August 18, 2010

posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:13 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I vacillate regarding Laurie. I really like his music, I kind of like his films, I am so-so about his artwork. He is very talented to be sure, at times he does strike me as being a bit of an asshole. IIRC Tom Waits refused to talk to him for months after filming their episode of Fishing With John.

And accidentally cussed him out once long ago. Totally didn't stalk him though and even apologized for the mix up.
posted by edgeways at 1:15 PM on August 18, 2010

well, from the abstract alone, statements like ...Lurie went into hiding in the belief that Perry intended to kill him and This was a reasonable point of view, as Perry was stalking him without attribution sound more like gossip than fact to me. (in the article, it may well say, lurie said, "that crazy s.o.b. was trying to kill me! i had to move 4 times because he was stalking me!' when you add in Perry promptly filed a police complaint against Lurie ... Lurie filed a police complaint against Perry, it doesn't make either of the principals is coming from a position of stability.

i'm a fan of lurie's but by no means follow him. perhaps it's well-known that lurie felt his life was in danger & perry is a stalker; those just seem like strong statements to make without any sort of actual quote from the persons involved.
posted by msconduct at 1:27 PM on August 18, 2010

msconduct, it's an abstract. It's not supposed to contain the evidence and attributions. That's why you'd buy the article. Which does contain those things.
posted by Miko at 1:35 PM on August 18, 2010


Note the article is not written by Jon Lee Anderson. It is written by Tad Friend.

And the fact that the episode is not over yet specifically makes it a better article. It is happening now, unresolved as we speak. And due to that it is far more compelling. Also you say the author doesn't draw any connection between this conflict and Lurie's art, which is untrue. Lurie [in part because of his illness and in part because of this episode] has stopped acting and stopped playing music. But he has since begun to paint more. All of this is because of what has happened recently in his life. Therefore, it ties into his work as an artist. As William Dafoe says in the article: "You could never seperate John's work from his personal challenges."

Maybe some could not care less about Lurie. But as someone who has enjoyed his music and enjoyed the movies he has been in I found the article very interesting. I no longer have to ask what happened to John Lurie - this article tells me what happened. The article achieves exactly what it sets out to do.
posted by Rashomon at 1:40 PM on August 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

i was totally fascinated to learn about the preved meme. utterly awesome.
posted by lapolla at 2:20 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wow, the preved thing could be its own post. Weird.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 2:23 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was kind of let down by the article. I'm not a huge John Lurie fan (I am a big fan of his brother, Evan Lurie's work - The Backyardigans is really great kid's music) but he's a hard-working guy who made lots of beautiful work (music/painting/acting) and I was sad to hear about the whole stupid mess (which is what it sounds like).

Also, Alec Wilkinson's profile of Gil Scott-Heron from the issue before broke my fucking heart. Broke it a couple times.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:33 PM on August 18, 2010

My bad about Tad Friend. I stupidly pulled the first name I saw off the web site.

Look, you know who John Lurie is. You may admire him already for stuff he's done. You've had unanswered questions about his "disappearance". This article informs and (something like) entertains you. A story like this would probably make the cover of "John Lurie's Year in Review." But I'm not a John Lurie fan, and this piece left me dissatisfied, which is unusual for the New Yorker. I'm not trying to convince you I'm right; I'm just looking for the reason why.
posted by coelecanth at 2:44 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, except that my sister was a single mom on welfare, with four kids. Maybe the New Yorker could do a story about her.

Probably better suited for O.
posted by dhammond at 2:50 PM on August 18, 2010

Another side to the story is presented at this blog. A full response from John Perry is promised.
posted by williampratt at 4:51 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

This was easily the worst thing I've read in the New Yorker this year. Nine-tenths of it was boring he said/he said back and forth little nit picky details of a really mundane falling out between two very drama-y guys. Both of them appear to have had multiple opportunities to deescalate and find solutions, or to use the legal system, and instead they cooperated with an article that will just raise the drama level even more.

The drama is excusable; the boring writing from such a good writer was the real disappointment. His previous pieces I've read were far, far better -- I don't know if he was just too close to this situation, or if he couldn't find a good hook to make it work as a story, or if there were editing issues. The final result, sadly, was pretty unimpressive.
posted by Forktine at 5:29 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

In the article, Lurie opined that the most talented people don't get success: the Keith Harings find fame and Jean-Michel Basquiats don't. That statement is interesting in itself, but is also interesting as an excuse. I looked at the article as a story about how a talented person can lose his thread. I hope he can find it- "Stranger than Paradise" was a lovely movie.
posted by acrasis at 5:59 PM on August 18, 2010

Lurie was great in The Last Temptation of Christ.
posted by ovvl at 6:43 PM on August 18, 2010

he was put forward as a Shibboleth of downtown hip - if you're cool and in the know, you care about John Lurie

Lurie's problem, and the problem with the article, was that while this was true twenty years ago, it is no longer true.
posted by Diablevert at 6:49 PM on August 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's fair to say I know nothing of him firsthand nor do I have any direct knowledge of his music or films.

Reading this article, it sounded to me like Lurie was the kind of guy who would steal your best idea, hit on your girlfriend, beat you shooting hoops, and out-cool you all in the same evening, for kicks. Whether intentional or not (or true or not), the article gave me negative sympathy for the guy. I realize a certain number of people in organized society can put aside the important tasks of making stable relationships, raising children, being good neighbors, etc in order to excel at some specific art or talent. It sounds like this guy did a lot of drugs, lived in the fast lane, kept some bad company, got by on being a middling artist and an attractive person, until he didn't.
posted by newdaddy at 7:57 PM on August 18, 2010

he was put forward as a Shibboleth of downtown hip - if you're cool and in the know, you care about John Lurie

Lurie's problem, and the problem with the article, was that while this was true twenty years ago, it is no longer true.

Actually, I think that was kind of the subject of the full article. Plus explaining that he's been missing lately because he's kinda nutty.
posted by LionIndex at 8:06 PM on August 18, 2010

I think I've posted this before, but here goes again:

A really close friend of mine was Lurie's personal assistant for a stretch of time a few years ago. He was trying to break into the art scene and basically required someone to go through crap in his apartment and cash his enormous checks (he would get royalty checks every time a movie he scored was shown on tv. He got a lot of checks.)

So I hung out at his small but pretty awesome (and incredibly messy) SoHo apartment with her once while she sorted his mail and other documents. The place was dark and disorganized and generally unpleasant to be in.

And then she saw him punch his then-girlfriend in the face during an argument (who was his former assistant - the one before my friend - and was something like 20-30 years his junior). She left his employ after that.
posted by deafmute at 8:28 PM on August 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

Actually, I think that was kind of the subject of the full article.

Oh, to be sure, else why include the quote about him cracking on David Byrne? But that's what I mean when I say "problem" --- if this article was about David Byrne or Lou Reed or Yoko One or anyone who actually is as famous as Mr. Lurie would like to be (and to have been) it'd be a fucking fascinating piece. Because you know who they are and care about them to the degree that the idea of them being cracked up by the weight of their great fame would be inherently interesting. But he is not. And so the whole thing comes off as desperate and pathetic and most tragic of all, boring.

As it is, a fine effort, really --- I mean, how else was the man supposed to score a 10-page spread in the New Yorker, at this late date? His work?
posted by Diablevert at 9:56 PM on August 18, 2010

It's nice to know that I'm not the only one whose day was ruined by that Gil Scott-Heron piece.

Also a little nice to know that I'm not the only one who had to look Lurie up on IMDB to find out who he was in OZ.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:45 PM on August 18, 2010

I have yet to read the New Yorker article, and TBH, I'm not sure I want to, particularly. At the risk of diagnosing from afar, it would seem that part of Marvin Pontiac's personality has seeped through into the day-to-day of John Lurie, who is or was a hugely talented artist in several media. I've known several artists who've been a little, well, odd is probably the best word. Perhaps he's blown things out of proportion, perhaps hiw illness has made reconciliation a harder task than it should be. Just reading the excerpts & the Dangerous Minds piece (and comments), it would seem that Mr. Perry could make greater strides to put out an olive branch. Perhaps he has and that just didn't show in these pieces, but he said & did enough in what's been acknowledged to make me have nothing to do with him, had he done the same to me.
posted by beelzbubba at 8:31 AM on August 19, 2010

I am the girlfriend referred to in the post by deafmute. I would like to clarify that John Lurie never punched me in the face.
I would also like to say that he has suffered immensely because of the Lyme disease, and even more because of the threats from his former friend, and it is extremely hurtful for him and the people close to him to see how the new yorker article has almost made a mockery of this whole thing.
John is a great artist and man. His music has touched so many people, and the Lounge Lizards never got the critical acclaim they deserved. Of course some people won't be able to feel his music, or appreciate his art, everyone has different tastes, but it is truly a shame that this man is no longer able to live his life freely and create art. It's a loss for the world. I hope he comes back soon.
posted by JGJG at 12:52 PM on August 23, 2010 [4 favorites]

JGJG: It's a loss for the world

Seriously? By your own admission a niche musician and niche painter, who by the way, is not actually incapacitated in any way but is merely a voluntary shut-in. The fact that, while he is shutting himself in, he chooses not to paint (I guess?) or record his music, that is your mile marker on the road to Armageddon?

Whatever floats your boat, I suppose.
posted by paisley henosis at 4:41 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dear "paisley henosis":
You obviously know nothing about John Lurie and have not been following this story or you would know that he has advanced Lyme disease which is, in fact, extremely incapacitating. He can no longer play the saxophone which is the instrument he so beautifully played for years. Sure, I don't expect everyone to like his music. Not creeps like you, but only people with souls and a true love and ear for great music. With the threats from the man who was stalking him, on top his physical condition being diminished by the Lyme disease, yes he has had a very difficult time being able to focus on his art-making. And I do feel like this is a huge loss for many of us. No one said anything about Armageddon. That word was something that you so awkwardly threw into this discussion. This is about a man and his music and art.
Once again, I'm so disappointed to see the overwhelming amount of ignorance that so freely flows from the keyboards of the computer obsessed people who join these websites and can't wait to throw in their two cents when they have absolutely no idea what they are talking about.
I only joined so that I could say that I was not punched in the face by John Lurie. When you read a blog and see something false said about yourself it makes you want to set things straight. But I see that it was not worth it to come on here because people don't actually read what is written, and now I've wasted 5 minutes of a Monday responding to a fool named Paisley Henosis. Goodbye.
posted by JGJG at 5:39 PM on August 23, 2010

You obviously know nothing about John Lurie and have not been following this story or you would know that he has advanced Lyme disease which is, in fact, extremely incapacitating

I don't think the article mentioned this at all. I've discarded my issue, but I remember nothing about Lyme disease in the story, and can't find it in a search.

Wikipedia says
In a 2006 interview, Lurie said that he had been in ill health since the mid- to late 1990s, with a number of neurological symptoms, "sort of like malaria", but that he is "90% certain that it is advanced Lyme disease. [4] Lurie said that his illness has kept him from acting or performing music, and that he spends most of his time in his apartment, painting.
And a search for that interview turns up this:
PSF: We don't have to discuss it at length, but it's good for people to know I think. You've described as some sort of Advanced Lyme Disease, right? And it's pretty much prevented you from going out & playing music?

JL: Depends on who you believe but yes.

PSF: I thought you had said as much in an interview on WNYC earlier this year?

JL: Yeah, I don't have a problem talking about it. It is just that the answer is very long and I am frustrated beyond what one could imagine with trying to get a diagnosis and the medical world in general. What I do is say that I have Advanced Lyme Disease because it is simpler than explaining. There are, at least, eight doctors who confirm that diagnosis. They are positive beyond a shadow of a doubt. The problem is that there are another eight who say that it absolutely is not advanced Lyme, that it is a rare form of epilepsy, a rare form of M.S., Basilar migraines, Mercury poisoning, an autoimmune disorder stemming from chronic Hep B (even though my counts are perfectly normal).
I'm now listening to the WNYC interview, and, transcribed, here's what one hears:
Leonard Lopate: "Is your emphasis on painting right now connected in some ways to your health problems?"

John Lurie: "Yeah. Um, almost, I mean like I can't play music now. I mean I have trouble getting out of the house. I mean, someone had to bring me here. So...

LL: That's because of Lyme Disease?

JL: I'm ...90% sure I have advanced Lyme disease. If it's not an advanced Lyme Disease, they don't know what it is. There's weird migrating neurological problems that can, you know, and it kind of has a malaria, it's kind of like malaria, where it'll just come on. So I never know quite when it's, like I didn't know last night at 4 in t he morning if I would be able to make it here, so...

LL: Causeyou look better than you did when you were her last year.

JL: I look better than before I got sick! Because, you know, no, no coffee, no alcohol, no preservatives, I'm super careful. I look better than I did 5 years ago. So no, it's all neurological, you know, it's vision, hearing, weird brain fog stuff, uh, miscommunication, my nervous system sending weird impulses to my heart which causes what I thought in the beginning was heart attacks and then panic on top of that, so learning how to psychologically deal with that has been enormous

LL: Did you get that on location for your fishing show?

JL NO. But the thing is, they only discovered Lyme disease,what, 20 years ago? I had Lyme in 1994. I had some of these symptoms before I had that. So I don't know that. you know, I've been to Africa a lot of times, I been to Thailand a bunch of times, who knows if there's som...If they only discovered Lyme disease which is in the Northeast of the United States, I could have got something in Africa in the jungle...who knows what that is.
So I think this is really far from a watertight diagnosis of Lyme disease that is causing neurological problems.

What I hear in the interviews and read in the story is that a man possessed of many talents made a mark on a particular art scene a couple of decades ago, but has since struggled with intermittent and untreated psychological problems of undiagnosed cause. I understand that there has been this terribly bad blood caused by his entanglement with another artist who also has some serious anger-control issues. I'm not sure there's much more to it than that, and to me, it falls far short of "genius forced to go into hiding." IT seems so much more mundane than that; it seems like ...just untreated mental illness, and there's so much of that to go around that I just ...expect horses. The story didn't sway to me to seeing it in any more grandoise terms than that, and yet it fell short of presenting that narrative, leaving just an unsettled mess where an unsettled mess apparently was before.
posted by Miko at 8:19 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

The article did mention lyme disease; I don't recall whether it was presented as an ironclad diagnosis or a best guess. From reading the article and the stories here, the people involved have other issues as well, and I'm with Miko on thinking it's a pretty sad story of undiagnosed mental illness. Sad, and messy.
posted by Forktine at 8:56 PM on August 23, 2010

Lurie's comments presented there about Lyme disease seem pretty spot-on. It can "lurk in the shadows," as it were, then be quite hard to diagnose. Often, too, it can be part of that cloud of diagnoses with fibromyalgia, seronegative rheumatoid arthritis, lupus etc where your life is barely functional because of the pain and confusion and things just aren't showing up definitively on tests. Because he and his doctors aren't 100% in agreement on diagnosis doesn't mean he isn't suffering from Lyme Disease (or, as he notes, some tropical cousin thereof). And it doesn't mean he is, either. Just saying that those quotes seem to not be enough to declare that he's mentally ill rather than suffering from Lyme Disease.

Full disclosure: I have been through the misty-diagnosis treadmill. I have also dealt with mental illness.
posted by jtron at 7:11 AM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I understand that the article failed to describe the extent of John's health problems, which we are pretty sure is Lyme Disease. He's been to many Lyme doctors, endured many different types of treatment for Lyme, and his blood tests have proven positive for Lyme. I can understand why, in that interview quoted above, someone might not take Lurie's health problems very seriously. But, you know, I think he was just feeling good that day, and probably was wanting to down-play the illness. It's the strangest disease... a person can feel okay every few weeks, so much so that they forget how badly they have been feeling, and then are surprised and depressed when the symptoms come back again. If anyone wants more information on Lyme, there's a great documentary called "Under Our Skin" which will shed a lot of light on this mysterious disease.
As someone who has spent a lot of time with Lurie over the last 7 years, I can tell you that he has been suffering greatly from the disease, and I can also tell you that the threats from Perry were violent, obsessive, and crazy. This is also downplayed in the new yorker article. Perry gave John very good reason to believe that he was not safe, and needed to flee his home and live in hiding. If at some point, John Perry decided that it was over for him, it was too late for Lurie to just brush it off. You can't put so much effort into making yourself terrifying to another person and then expect that fear to just go away when you decide you're bored with it.
posted by JGJG at 7:18 AM on August 24, 2010

I see that it's hard to draw conclusions in the absence of concrete evidence. The article author's resistance to drawing or even presenting possible conclusions is one reason why the article was so unsatisfying. Perhaps there was some sort of artistic intent for his presentation of the issue to mimic the disorienting lack of clarity the principals have on the issue.

And let me introduce an academic question. Suppose that someone is experiencing regular threats from another person, really serious ones that are quite scary. And that goes on for ten, fifteen years, to the point where it really begins to ruin the other's life. Is there any sane response to this? Though of course the initial tendency is to fight fire with fire, try to involve the law, obsessively track the other person, is there some point at which another path can be chosen - a path of, say, getting on with your life and letting the chips fall where they may? Being prepared for confrontation should it come, but refusing to let your emotional state be dictated by the manipulator? I understand that would be a difficult feat, but it does seem as though it takes some willingness to live with this continued sense of threat and need for evasion. There are politicians and activists, for instance, who are aware that there are prices on their head every day, who have had close brushes with kidnapping and violence. It is not something anyone wants to live with, but is there something to be learned about responding to a constant state of threat that might allow Lurie to enjoy a better quality of life?
posted by Miko at 7:24 AM on August 24, 2010

Heh. Maybe this is my answer. But even though there are prominent and tragic counterexamples, only a small minority of people who are targeted are ever actually harmed.
posted by Miko at 7:27 AM on August 24, 2010

Seven personal attacks. Wow!

Well, that's super classy.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:06 AM on August 24, 2010

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