Spiegel & Grau
Marc Maron’s new book, part-memoir, part recycling of his ‘bits’, all therapy is – therefore – a patchy read. It’s likely that most engaging with it are doing so in support of the Maron brand as much as anything; this is how it is in most cases when a comedian releases a book. Maron is no flashy prose stylist but he writes well – in his own voice, so clearly his own, passionate, candid, confessional. He was never the greatest stand-up of his – or any – generation but he’s had an amazing second act as podcasting guru, his radio skills and voice combining with a sharp tongue, decent address book and willingness to embrace the awkward encounter, even look for it, have earned him – rightfully – a great run and a whole new era of fandom with his WTF series.
That podcast has given him the TV show he always craved, bigger audiences at his shows, more material, and the platform for, among other things, this book. But he’s still not happy. And you get the feeling he’ll never be happy. But this is no sad-sack story, rather it’ a man open to criticism, often not just his own worst critic but clearly his own worst enemy and though it’s at times quite a brutal set of self-lacerating statements – he’s also doing upstanding work at cleaning out his closet. Drug and alcohol issues, anger, bitterness, Maron’s fully aware it’s not just him that’s suffered and that through his issues he’s made a lot of other people suffer. It’s almost unflinchingly honest.
So it’s good.
And then – almost lazily – a second part of the book (the “normal” part to follow up the “attempting” intro) falls into so many stories he’s shared on the stage and via his podcast. The momentum just dies; so much you could be forgiven for thinking it was a real chore to him and when he reached the halfway point and ran out of things to say he just dialled up a few offcuts, some of his regular bits and a few pet peeves and threw them in the general direction of the book, hoping they’d clean up as best they could if left to arrange themselves into some sense, some order.
A real shame because as WTF runs 400 episodes deep and interest in it continues to grow, as Maron books more shows and appears in the mainstream media, and as the TV gig and various other speaking deals continue to provide him with more streams (or revenue and outlet) he never quite appears to be running out of things to say. He’s open and interesting and for all his flaws – he’s very aware of most of them, too – he’s hugely interested in not only sharing his story but the concept of sharing, of hearing stories from others, of pulling it all together. At his best he’s a wizard at some strange, slightly aggressive form of (new wave?) navel gazing.
But this book is only him at its best for about 40-50% of the slim volume. And then it just falls away to very nearly him at his worst. And he gives off the appearance, for the first time in his career, that he did indeed run out of things to say. The worst occupational hazard a writer can suffer.