By Deborah Vankin
10:30 AM EDT, May 1, 2013
Comedians publishing humorous autobiographies -- quirky retellings of the boozy nights on the road, the broken hearts and broken (sitcom) dreams -- seems a rite of passage these days, along with the requisite podcast, Twitter account and digital comedy special.
Marc Maron has perfected all those comedy offshoots -- his popular podcast, “WTF with Marc Maron,” is nearing 400 episodes and he’s prolific, if a bit hilariously neurotic, on Twitter. He just taped a 90-minute Netflix special, due out in June, and he’s landed a sitcom, “Maron,” which debuts Friday on IFC.
Then Maron's memoir, "Attempting Normal," out this week from Spiegel & Grau, found its way to my desk. The essayistic collection, spanning Maron’s peripatetic, near-30-year comedy career on radio, TV, in print and on the Web, is not only funny, it is surprisingly deep, at times laced with revelatory insights.
The book is reminiscent of Spalding Gray's or Eric Bogosian’s work in that it’s both conversational and writerly at once, but it’s shot through with that particular Maron-esque combination of brooding, unapologetic confession, self-analysis and vulnerability. Anecdotes swing from straightforward sob stories of divorce and drug addiction to brutally honest tidbits (like Maron’s unsexy encounter with a prostitute who has him examine her breasts for lumps) to bursts of self-awareness.
He chose comedy, he wrote, “because I needed to finish the construction of myself.”
“Attempting Normal” isn’t Maron’s first book. He published “The Jerusalem Syndrome,” based on his one-man show of the same name, in 2001. But the newer book was written from scratch, he said, so it was a little more difficult.
“I didn’t really want to write a second book, because it’s hard, it’s taxing and I’m not a professional writer,” Maron said over dinner recently. “[But] I needed to make money; I wasn’t making any money on the podcast.”
He said the book took more than a year to write, during which time he had some assistance.
“I have a slightly obsessive fan who transcribes all of my monologues, so I had thousands of pages of me talking as a resource,” he said. “But I didn’t want to lean on the monologues too much. I wanted to write and to stretch.”
Of all Maron’s stories, one of the most memorable is “Babies”: Maron’s live-in girlfriend, Jessica, wants kids; Maron is freaked out by the prospect.
“[Not having kids] I could put an end to the genetic bundle of selfishness, depression and anger that has tumbled down through time along my father’s line of descent,” he wrote in the book. “I would be doing the world a favor.”
It’s an ongoing battle, Maron explained, and in the book, he doesn’t offer much closure. The story ends on a poignant note with Jessica telling him: “I love you ... but I’m not going to hang around forever.”
When asked about this over dinner, Maron candidly responded.
“I worry about the age thing, I’m almost 50 years old!” he said. “But I like kids, I get along with kids, and I think emotionally, this would be the time -- I don’t think I would have been ready previous to this.”
There was a short silence -- the first all throughout dinner -- before Maron continued. “So I think we’re gonna do that,” he said. "If things don’t fall apart first.”
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