Sunday, May 19, 2013

Attempting Normal

If you told me I would connect on a deep emotional level with a self absorbed cynical emotionally crippled neurotic Jewish comedian's memoirs, I would be sure you had me confused with someone else. But who knew? I really related to Marc Maron's world view and critical self analysis. Even if I didn't, I still think I would have laughed hard and long at his book, Attempting Normal. It is a scathing self analysis mixed with stand up routine, confessional and too much information, but for me it worked. As comedy, and as literature. I loved it and consider it among my favorite in the memoir genre.

This is the spur of the moment review I wrote to satisfy the LibraryThing Early Reviewer Algorithm which has gifted me with so many wonderful free reads in exchange for my grateful and humble opinion.  I posted it to Amazon too. And tweeted about it too. That's how much I want this book to find an audience. I hope good things for this book, because besides being funny, it was cathartic for me too.

Attempting Normal by Marc Maron

Abnormally Funny by Marc Maron

With no frame of reference or previous exposure to Marc Maron, I read an advanced copy of his book and laughed myself silly. I want everyone I know to read this book because it is the funniest laugh out loud memoir I've read in years and I want to spread the endorphins around. Marc Maron is brutally and neurotically honest in examining his life and he has a gift for turning sad and sordid events into funny ones. I bookmarked over a dozen passages to reread because they made me laugh so hard.

For the record, I'm female, so parts of the book made me cringe, deeply, but the author gets my respect for having no shame in exposing his most embarrassing moments, which are among some of the funniest in the book. In addition to the laughter, the book is a good read as a memoir, an attempt to understand a crazy life, a cautionary tale of substance abuse, an inspiration for recovery and as encouragement for aspiring artists. I could relate to many chapters in the book, which cover a crazy wide range of topics in a stream of consciousness vein, and marveled that someone finally calls out adorable hummingbirds for the vicious territorial murderers they truly are. Relationships, parents, sex, feral cats, air travel, shrink to fit jeans, clown dunking and near death experiences are just a few of the topics explored, and it would be hard to choose a favorite chapter.

 Marc Maron is everywhere right now, on the internet, cable and network tv and I wish him well. He has paid his dues and he has a comedic gift. I'll be checking out his podcasts and tv show to offset the endorphin withdrawal, because laughter is the best drug of them all. Thanks to LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program for the book and Mr. Maron for the laughs. I tried really hard to think of a funnier book I've read, and would rate the laughs per page of Attempting Normal alongside Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods and J. Maarten Troost's Getting Stoned with the Savages and The Sex Lives of Cannibals.

Either that means I have really good taste in humor books or I am as warped as the author, but I don't plan on overthinking it right now.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Prodigal Summer

Barbara Kingsolver has moved to my list of favorite authors. After reading The Poisonwood Bible, which was a revelation, I acquired several more of her books and was told by friends that I needed to read this one next. I'm so glad I did, because I loved almost everything about this novel, which is so entertaining and educational and thought provoking. As a lifelong bug nut with a fixation on Luna Moths and the ecological web, as well as an obsession with the mountains where the book is set, this would be a great read for me regardless of the strength of the story or skill of the author. Given that it is elegantly and passionately written, skillfully paced and gravid with unforgettable characters, scenes and moments, I am sure to reread this one again, and recommend it to my friends and especially my nature and farming bedeviled family. There is more personal and scientific truth in Prodigal Summer than any book I've read in ages.

I'm holding back on that last half star because I wanted more completion in the story lines, I needed to know what happened to everyone, wanted at least for the book to take me into the first frost, not end so suddenly; and because I saw every twist of the plot coming for the last half of the book. Not that I'm complaining. It was a wonderful diversion, and will stay with me for a very long time.

Friday, May 3, 2013

You Were Never In Chicago

Halfway through reading the free e-book from the Chicago University Press, I bought the hard cover version so I could hold it in my hand, enjoy the cover, gaze at it on my coffee table, and hand it to family and friends to read, so I could have someone to talk to about this book and this city. I found the historical portrait of Chicago to be very well written and informative, and a great complement to my previous reads, Devil in the White City, Loving Frank, Lost Chicago and Sin in the Second City.

Neil Steinberg's book is a revelation, filled with bittersweet memoir of a city that never stops changing and growing, and is in a sense, unknowable, even to those who have lived here all their lives. As an east-coast transplant to the Chicago suburbs, the city has always fascinated me, from the visually stunning architecture and museums, to the public spaces and art, the lakefront, the people, the politics, the weather - and after decades of exploring I feel I will never know more that a hint of Chicago, a city in constant flux. Thankfully, this book captures a glimpse of what was, and what lies ahead.

Shifting seamlessly from personal memoir to historical and political context to homage to long gone businesses and institutions, You Were Never In Chicago captivated me as I rushed through my first reading, but I plan to revisit many chapters when my hard copy arrives. I have added many destinations to my must-see in the city list, and can't wait to find the next fascinating destination, person or experience in Chicago. This book gets my highest recommendation.  )