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.
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