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The Jerusalem Syndrome: My Life as a Reluctant Messiah [Paperback]

Marc Maron
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 9 2001
By the author of Attempting Normal and host of the podcast WTF with Marc Maron, The Jerusalem Syndrome is The Gospel according to Maron: a spiritual memoir of your average hyperintelligent, ultraneurotic, superhip Jewish standup comedian and seeker. 


The Jerusalem Syndrome is a genuine psychological phenomenon that often strikes visitors to the Holy Land_the delusion that they are suddenly direct vessels for the voice of God. Marc Maron seems to have a distinctly American version of the Jerusalem Syndrome, which has led him on a lifelong quest for religious significance and revelation in the most unlikely of places.

Maron riffs on Beat phenomena with its sacred texts, established rituals, and prescribed pilgrimages. He spends some time exploring the dark side of things, as his obsessions with cocaine (known to Maron as “magic powder”), conspiracy theories, and famous self-destructive comedians convince him that the gates of hell open beneath Los Angeles. As his quest matures, he reveals the religious aspects of Corporate America, pontificating on the timeless beauty of the Coca-Cola logo and even taking a trip to the Philip Morris cigarette factory, where the workers puff their own products with a zealot-like fervor. The culmination of Maron’s Jerusalem Syndrome comes during his own tour of the Holy Land, where, with Sony camcorder glued to his eye socket, he comes face-to-face with his own ambiguous relationship to Judaism and reaches the brink of spiritual revelation_or is it nervous breakdown?

Marc Maron has considerably adapted and expanded his praised one-man show to craft a genuine literary memoir. Whether he’s a genuine prophet or a neurotic mess, he’ll make you laugh as you question the meaning of life.

“Marc Maron is blazingly smart, rapid-fire, and very funny . . . A brilliant and relentless screed.” –David Rakoff, author of Fraud

“Marc Maron is the first crazy person I’ve ever envied. In his brainiac-memoir-meets-hilarious-travelogue, he demonstrates the ability to tell a story with an extraordinary provocative intelligence that is regrettably shared by few.” _ Janeane Garofolo, comedian

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From Amazon

Named for a psychological condition that often afflicts visitors to the Middle East, The Jerusalem Syndrome provides a vivid and comedic sense of what it's like to believe you're a conduit for the voice of God. In this case, the affliction belongs to standup comic Marc Maron, whose brief, engrossing memoir recounts a lifelong parade of revelation and delusion. In New Jersey, in New Mexico, and in Israel (among many other places), Maron has found God in encounters with Beat poetry, cocaine, the Coca-Cola logo, and conspiracy theories. Brief chapters sketch Maron's picaresque adventures, all narrated in a relentlessly neurotic style: "I had just made a horrible but good decision." Maron's decidedly nontraditional perspective on Judaism--"Believing in the grand plan can take the edge off if you let it, because it really doesn't end well for anyone"--may strike some readers as blasphemous. To others, it will seem revelatory, and for the many in the middle, it will be both. --Michael Joseph Gross

From Publishers Weekly

Stand-up comic Maron, a regular on late-night TV, has adapted and expanded his off-Broadway show of the same name into a darkly funny memoir. Only after a particularly manic trip to Israel not "to get Jewy" but to visit a friend did Maron conclude that he had long had Jerusalem Syndrome, a psychological condition of mystical self-aggrandizement. After all, he'd always felt special; at Hebrew school in Albuquerque, he first recognized his "unique talent for driving people to the edge." In college, he found a spiritual focus for his desires: an obsession with the beats and an embrace of their rituals (bad poetry, mind-altering fluids). After graduation, he moved to Los Angeles and worked as a doorman at the Comedy Store ("a dark temple of fear and pain"), where he spent too much time with cocaine and the self-destructive genius comic Sam Kinison. He made pilgrimages to the Philip Morris headquarters and the Coca-Cola Museum, which reflected the "almost religious faith" of brand loyalty. He became a professional comic and, ultimately, "came out as a Jew on stage" and "eased into my anger over time." Finally, in Israel, carrying a camcorder to protect himself from "unmediated reality," Maron found himself on the brink of a spiritual crisis and moments of primal peace. Three years later, he reflects, "the cure... was essentially living life." He closes with a redemptive story about performing a benefit for his old Albuquerque synagogue: "Faith in the face of disappointment is only enhanced by laughter in the face of pain. That's my belief. That's my job." There are some narrative gaps here, but Maron is compelling enough to transcend them.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars good book March 20 2014
By Lucas
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
if you like books that are funny and sound like they are being about a man going insane you will love this book. i found it entertaining to read and just a great book overall.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A few really good parts, anyway. June 20 2003
By Jason
Format:Paperback
I bought this because I think Marc Maron's standup comedy is hilarious. I caught a brief appearance of him on Comedy Central awhile ago and it took me several months to find out the name of the guy who made me laugh so hard. After finally finding out who he was, I found out he has a CD, Not Sold Out, and this book, The Jerusalem Syndrome. The CD is hilarious and I highly recommend it. Since no other CDs or a DVD of his standup is available (yet, anyway - fingers crossed!), I went ahead and got the book because he wrote it, not really knowing what it was about, with pretty high expectations.
The book is a fragmentary autobiography of some events in Maron's life, very little of which is directly related to his career as a standup comic.
The brief first chapter foreshadows the events that will occur later in the book during Maron's trip to Israel.
Chapters two through five cover Maron's life up to high school. I simply didn't find this stuff to be very interesting.
Chapter six covers Maron's college years, focusing on him adopting the Beat religion. The ideas and events in this chapter are very interesting, they're written about very well, and the chapter is very funny.
Chapter seven is another highlight of the book, covering the modest beginnings of his career as his comedian and his relationship (friendship is too strong of word) with Sam Kinison. Like the previous chapter the events here are interesting and funny, if not scary.
In chapter eight Maron recounts his foray into conspiracy theory, and how his credulity for that intellectual junk food led to him making a fool of himself. He does save some face, though, by turning his mind back on before the chapter is through.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, frank, intelligent, worthwhile April 17 2002
Format:Paperback
Read this book. I read it in a day. I went back and underlined the good parts. I told a number of friends about it. You don't have to know anything about Judaism or Israel to appreciate Maron's spiritual journey. It's the funniest thing I've ever purchased online.
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