Shameless Plug

"I'm having a fucking nervous breakdown!"

Ask author Laurie Notaro how she's doing, and you may get an answer like that. We did.

It's the kind of reply everyone wants to spit out at some point, but rarely does. That sort of no-holds-barred attitude is what's made Notaro's last two books resonate with a growing readership.

"One of the things I love about Laurie is she's real, honest, and she tells it like it is," says Cindy Dach, marketing manager for Tempe's Changing Hands Bookstore. "She says all the things people wish they could say."

And she's had three books to say them in. With The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club (a New York Times best seller) and Autobiography of a Fat Bride under her supposedly ample belt, Notaro is hitting the road once again to promote the annals of her most recent escapades, I Love Everybody (and Other Atrocious Lies).

"She gives us permission to laugh at the ironies of the world we live in," Dach opines. "She even can laugh at the chaos . . . which is why I think she gets such huge crowds."

Notaro, however, has a somewhat more insular perspective on why she'll easily draw 70 to 100 people to this week's signing, and why she can't help but do what she does.

"I figure if I do awful, humiliating things 90 percent of my waking hours," she says, laughing, "and if I admit them to the entire world, that kind of takes some of the shame away."

Wiping the slate clean the third time around has proven to be unusually gratifying for Notaro, who's accustomed to writing columns instead of lengthy prose. "I wrote things at their natural lengths," Notaro says. "It's a very natural writing experience, and it was me being the writer that I think I was always meant to be."

It was also a chance to weave unifying themes into her work, the most notable one being her rise and fall at the Arizona Republic. She likens the experience to having an abusive boyfriend. "Some relationships run their course, and this one just ran over a cliff," she says with her characteristic candor. "Then the career just landed at the bottom of the cliff and burst into flames."

Don't expect a recap of the book at Notaro's signing. The New York-born, Arizona-raised author prefers to regale audiences with fresh material that she'll use in her next book.

Like what? Well, there's the story about when she flipped off a 7-year-old at the YMCA, or the time she had to paint a nude model, sagging breasts and all. As is normally the case with the quixotic Notaro, you can't predict anything but the unpredictable.

"Usually, they have me far enough away from the kids' section so that I can swear a lot more," she quips. Considering her track record, that's probably a good thing.