I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are by Rachel Bloom

Review by George Yatchisin

Think of Rachel Bloom’s memoir I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are as a bathroom book. It’s written in zippy chapters—some lists, some mini-screenplays, some poems from her childhood (they are often illustrated, as it seems she’s kept all her life’s journals, and yes, she is OCD)—so makes for quick, diverting reading when you might be busy otherwise. But it’s also a book about the bathroom: turns out it’s one of Bloom’s favorite locations, and you will get details. If you’re a squeamish reader, you have been warned.

Then again, all the shit of a person’s life is sort of Bloom’s thing. Most know her from her stupendous series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which managed to be funny about depression, serious about humor, and pull off 157 original songs, almost all mini-musical number winners, in four seasons. Trying to pull apart what is Rachel Bloom and what is her CXG alter-ego Rebecca Bunch can get tricky after reading the memoir, as both RB’s have had their serious struggles with depression. There’s a reason Bloom could write, and perform so convincingly as Bunch, a ditty called “Anti-Depressants Are So Not a Big Deal.”

So the book is laugh-out-loud funny and why-am-I-reading-this? grimace-making, often in the same paragraph. That’s both powerful but can at times feel like schtick, which might be a compliment for someone so clearly, and self admittedly, a theater nerd. At certain points you don’t want to know one more unpleasant detail about her as she tries to navigate to the golden land populated by the book’s titular normal people; that feeling might climax (pun intended) in the passage when she discusses masturbating while pregnant to a Pornhub video called “Schoolgirl slut sucks cock to get an A” and frets it will scar her in utero child. As she puts it, “What if, for the rest of her life, my future daughter can only be soothed to sleep by the sound of someone gagging on a dick screaming, ‘Oh baby yes yes yes I now love science claaaaaaaass!’”

It’s up to you to decide how much of that kind of thing you care to, uh, swallow. But the book does have a through line, teasing out what both Bloom and all of us do to be normal (bet you can guess what the final conclusion is), and it does have plenty of heart, too. Sadly, some of that care and gravitas comes from the ghost of her collaborator Adam Schlesinger, who died from COVID-19 on of all things April Fool’s Day, 2020. Schlesinger co-wrote the many-genred, catchy as heck, clever as hell CXG songs, and if you don’t know the show, you might know him from his witty band Fountains of Wayne (please dive in beyond “Stacey’s Mom”). Bloom dedicates the book to him.