Saturday, October 25, 2014

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NY1 teams with contributors from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, Slate.com and Essence Magazine to review the latest books and book-related trends.

The Book Reader: "The Fun Parts", "Attempting Normal"

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David Haglund of Slate reports on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in NY1's twice-weekly living segment, "The Book Reader."

The funniest fiction writer in the country right now might be New York’s own Sam Lipsyte, whose newest book, a collection of stories called "The Fun Parts", is among his very best.

The 13 tales in "The Fun Parts" focus on sad sacks of various kinds, bumbling and frequently desperate men mostly muddling through middle age.

"Classic American story," one of these men declares. "I was out of money and people I could ask for money." He decides to write a children’s book about the great middleweight fighter Marvelous Marvin Hagler. It does not solve all his problems.

Another of the book’s narrators is a recovering drug addict who has become a memoirist. His books "Bang the Dope Slowly" and "I Shoot Horse, Don’t I?" were best sellers, but he has since fallen out of fashion. "Nobody wanted my woe," he says.

Lipsyte gives us that woe, along with the assorted sadnesses of all his characters, who you come to feel for and care about, flawed as they may be. And you laugh. A lot.

Something similar happens when reading "Attempting Normal", the new memoir by stand-up comic Marc Maron, who, coincidentally, is an old friend of Sam Lipsyte’s. Both men used to live in Queens, and Lipsyte was an early guest on Maron's popular podcast, WTF, which revived the comic’s career.

In "Attempting Normal", Maron recounts stories from his childhood and his years doing comedy on the road, and he grapples with his newfound success.

Though his own story has a happier ending, many of Maron's tales would fit right into Lipsyte's book: They have a similar dark humor, and they're told by a man who frequently worries his life will not go well. He struggles with drugs and alcohol and anger management. His two marriages end in divorce. But like Lipsyte, he brings an honesty and a sense of humor to his experience that will make you chuckle and feel and think.

Look for reviews of these books and more on the Slate Book Review: slate.com/books.

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