Steve Almond originally intended to write a tribute to Kurt Vonnegut (I already gave my [very positive] impressions of that section of his book, “Why I Crush On Kurt Vonnegut“) but his editor, as editors do, wanted something else. Here’s a tip for all you editors out there: when Steve Almond says he wants to do something, let him do it, ok? I enjoyed the book thoroughly, I’ve been having a wonderful time over the past couple of days, but the Vonnegut section was absolutely the high water mark.
Close behind was “Demagogue Days,” his brush with Sean Hannity (and others) following his resignation from BU when they invited Condoleeza Rice to speak at commencement. I heart Steve Almond more and more. And I was tickled pink by “Cash Cowed”: the National Republican Congressional Committee tried to seduce him out of $500 with a gavel and a position as honorary chairman of the Business Advisory Council. I remember Rachel Maddow’s gleeful coverage of a similar maneuver last year, when Newt Gingrich’s group “American Solutions for Winning the Future” offered a Dallas strip club title of Entrepreneur of the Year – complete with gavel – for the price of $5000, an offer that was withdrawn when the nature of the business became known. I guess they aren’t very picky about those mailing lists. The chapter is hilarious.
There’s plenty of fluff as well. An MTV reality show tried to film a segment about him, following the publication of Candyfreak, which did not go terribly well and ultimately was not obsessive enough to air, despite the producer’s constant exhortation to display more bizarre behavior (“Roll in candy”). I remember this chapter when I see ads for shows like My Strange Addiction, which recently features a woman who eats couch cushions, and another who insists on wearing furry animal suits when she goes bowling or pretty much anywhere. I do not believe them. The woman who eats her hair, ok, I’ll accept that, there’s even a medical term for that (trichotillomania) but couch cushions, no. And bunny suits, no. People who have to wear bunny suits to function are pretty much confined to institutions.
And we have the “awww” chapter, regarding the birth of his first child. In spite of my total lack of interest in all things baby, I did enjoy it. His chapter on ugliness broke my heart and mended it again (it deserves more attention but I am not up to it at the moment, maybe some day when I am more able to own my ugliness). I loved the account of cooking Lobster Pad Thai. And his encounter with a literary blogger who hated him for apparently no reason at all. Note: I am not a literary blogger. I am just a person. Well, two people, sometimes. I just give my impressions. I am just a bad writer trying to learn how to be a good writer by looking at the gap between my bad writing and the good writing of others, I am not offering literary criticism or reviews.
I will admit I pretty much skimmed through the sexual development chapter. Just because I heart Steve Almond, doesn’t mean I want to read about his first ejaculation in the hot tub. And I skipped the baseball chapter entirely. Hey, I lived in Boston for 20 years, I did my time. I stayed up until 3 am several times for West Coast post-season games that went into extra innings until Calvin Schiraldi hit a batter with a pitch, and I watched, live, as the ball went through what’s-his-name’s legs. I lived in Maine when they finally won the damn World Series, and I was surprised the next day when the sky was still blue and the sun still rose in the east. I just didn’t want to bother. But die-hards will probably love it.
I was disappointed to discover Mr. Almond is one of those people who announces he does not own a TV. I think it’s fine to not own a TV. I think it’s fine to not watch a TV if one happens to own one. I just have this problem with people who announce they do not own a TV, as it generally is said with a great deal of pride and superiority over the rest of us hapless fools who live by the light of the small screen. So this is causing some cognitive dissonance: what do I do when someone I think I will crush on for the foreseeable future does something that I have always thought indicates snobbery? I choose to accept it as one of those things people do, and move on. Maybe some day I’ll adjust my thinking about people who announce their lack of TV ownership. See what a hold he has on me?!?! And for someone who never watches TV, he did a bang-up job relating the national obsession with forensics (CSI, etc) with our ability to hide the military bodies, to link the “who-done-it-and-why” with “what is this war about”. This is why he has this hold on me. See?