Friday, November 30, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #334: Will Not Attend by Adam Resnick

Once again, a book was completely different from what I expected. And I find myself wishing the book I expected actually existed -- if it does, I don't know what it's called.

Adam Resnick's 2014 memoir Will Not Attend is a collection of stories from his life. From that, and the title, and some review I now only half-remember, I thought it was the story of someone painfully shy and how he walled himself off from everyone his entire life.

But Adam Resnick is not painfully shy. As he presents himself in this memoir, he's kind of an asshole: he hates people, and social interaction, and work, and pretty much everything else in life, as far as I can tell. (The one possible ray of sunshine: in his telling, he's the only halfway human being in his family. his father is vastly worse, a thoroughly horrible man who Resnick presents as having no redeeming features and doesn't even pretend to like, let alone love. His brothers -- never given names, and their number barely mentioned -- are nearly as bad, horrible violent hooligans as kids and blissfully distant as adults. He doesn't even seem to like his mother much, which I think is a hanging offense most places in America.)

So what this book actually is is a series of stories from the point of view of a terminally obnoxious kid who turned into an only slightly better (but more neurotic) adult. Kid-Resnick hated people, hated doing what anyone else told him to, hated school, and hated every possible kind of work. Adult-Resnick additionally was constitutionally incapable of doing anything to make any other person in the world happy.

Our hero, ladies and gentlemen!

Resnick grew up to be successful, somehow starting off by writing for David Letterman's really old show and then moving on to co-create Get a Life, writing several movies, co-executive producing The Larry Sanders Show and creating The High Life. The book gets into absolutely none of that.

Will Not Attend has two kinds of stories: the ones in which Resnick is a snotty obnoxious kid, and the one where he's a snotty, obnoxious married man with a young daughter. The fact that someone married him and willingly created a new human being with him is just as unbelievable as his career, from the evidence here. It's technically a "memoir," but of the definition of that word that means "a bunch of random stories" rather than the one meaning "the chronological story of a life."

Now, Resnick is pretty funny, as you might guess from his comedy pedigree. But the material here feels like it would more naturally be stand-up comedy, if Resnick liked humanity enough to stand up in front of a bunch of it and try to amuse them.

Now, I suspect my standards of a likable-enough protagonist may be more strict (or just different) from others', since I just read a couple of graphic novels today with an absolutely appalling set of young heroines who I think I was supposed to root for. So you may sympathize with Resnick more than I did -- and this book is definitely funny, though often in the cringe-laugh manner.

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