Monday, July 22, 2013

Reading Rainbow: Attempting Normal by Marc Maron

Over the last ten months or so, I've been taking in a whole lot of Marc Maron. Sure, the first season of his show Maron aired on IFC recently, and I watched every episode--most more than once--but that's mostly the icing on the cake. I really liked the first season--it managed to be exactly as honest as you'd have hoped while holding to the standards of broadcast cable (I really don't understand why IFC holds to these standards while freely showing unedited films later in the evening, as they should given the origins of the network, but that is neither here nor there)--but that's the tip of the iceberg for my borderline Marc Maron obsession.

Since the end of last summer, I've probably spent more time listening to his WTF? podcast than doing anything else. At first, I just listened to episodes in which he interviewed people who interested me. Then, I started listening to episodes that vaguely interested me. What broke the floodgates open, though, was probably the episode with Jimmie Walker, which was fucking fascinating and a complete surprise. It was around that time that I decided to go back and listen to every episode from the start. I'm over 100 episodes in, re-listening to episodes that I'd already listened to in an effort to keep Maron's past four-plus years in order.

So it should come as no surprise that I also read Marc's (when you have someone talking in your head for well over 100 hours, it's hard not to think of them as a friend--hence the use of the first name there--despite the obvious insanity implicit in that leap) latest foray into the realm of the humorous episodic memoir, Attempting Normal. Just as one would hope, it's every bit as funny and brutally honest in that self-evaluative way that is uniquely Marc Maron's way. His voice is finely honed through his more than 25 years of work on the stage. It should come as no surprise (not having read his first book The Jerusalem Syndrome: My Life as a Reluctant Messiah) that Maron speaks about himself and his struggles laying everything extremely and unabashedly bare. Sure, as someone who has listened to a fuckload of his podcast episodes over the past year, a lot of the issues have at least been touched upon in his monologues that open each of his podcast episodes, but there's still a unique spin on even these stories that makes them not feel like they've simply been rehashed to fill a book.

Thankfully, Maron avoids this potential pitfall, and Attempting Normal is an outrageously propulsive read. No subject is off limits, and his perspective spins these situations in a singular and refreshing fashion. His insights into a wide range of topics, but as he works through (his) issues, it opens a doorway in your own head that helps you work through your own issues. His introspection gets the reader to join along with him while never stepping over the line into being laborious. The stories within are all funny, but more importantly they are easily relatable, at least metaphorically, to your own life. While reading Attempting Normal, you'll surely laugh, but you'll also figure out things about yourself.

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