Almond on Vonnegut

January 25, 2008
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
I’m a bit shamed to admit it, but when I picked up Steve Almond’s recent collection of essays "(Not that You Asked)" I cringed a little when I saw that the first substantial one focused on the author’s literary hero, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

That’s not because I’m anti-Vonnegut—like just about anyone else who grew up circa 1965-1990, I spent my formative years enamored with the curmudgeon’s writing. After reading Vonnegut, every other serious writer just seemed to be working too hard. Why can’t they be as simple, precise and clear as this guy, I wondered.

Eventually, though, that feeling backfired. Vonnegut’s star diminished as I (erroneously) concluded that I had simply overrated him. It didn’t help that his novels started to blur together, leading me to further believe that Vonnegut was just a one-trick pony. He nailed the elusive great-American novel with "Slaughterhouse-Five," I figured, and everything after that was just treading the same literary water.

And so when the city celebrated Vonnegut last year, I didn’t engage in the festivities. Been there. Read that. Moved on.

So I resisted Almond’s essay.

For a very short while.

Because Steve Almond’s writing is difficult to resist. As anyone who saw his reading a few years back at the Harrison Center (part of the hey-what-happened-to-that Indy Underground series) can attest, this is one disarming guy.

The author of the bestselling book "Candyfreak" and the collaborative novel "Which Brings Me to You," Almond is funny and smart and introspective without being pretentious. He’s also fairly filthy, which can both scare and attract readers.

And once I caved and started reading his "Why I Crush on Vonnegut" essay, it quickly became clear that he was bringing to matters Vonnegut exactly what I’ve needed: A bright, engaging point of view that completely understands why I’ve strayed from the cult of Kurt. And why I loved his books to begin with.

The long essay chronicles Almond’s feeble attempts to meet his idol and his lightning read through the Vonnegut archives at IU. In the end, it draws some interesting conclusions about the man and his work.

It’s an eye-opener that I wish I read it before the city’s Year of Vonnegut.

Perhaps if I did, I would have been more engaged. And I could have acknowledged how great an influence Vonnegut's books had on me.

(By the way, Almond’s collection also contains probably the best essay ever written on how to write sex scenes. But that’s another matter.)

Your thoughts?
ADVERTISEMENT
  • Well, after reading your blog today I definitely want to read Almond's book, although I don't need to be sold further on Vonnegut.

    I just looked to see if my local public library has a copy of Almond's book. Funny: Andrew Rooney also wrote a book of essays called NOT THAT YOU ASKED, published in 1989. But anyway, the 2007 Almond book is on the shelf, available for me to read.

    Thank goodness for public libraries, eh? The $25 per year of my property taxes that goes towards my public library has already paid for itself, and we're still just in January.

    Thanks for bringing my attention to Almond's book, Lou.
  • PS - I am reading your blog from an Internet station at my public library, too.
  • Looking forward to reading what you think of the essay.
    --Lou

Post a comment to this blog

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
  1. Cramer agrees...says don't buy it and sell it if you own it! Their "pay to play" cost is this issue. As long as they charge customers, they never will attain the critical mass needed to be a successful on company...Jim Cramer quote.

  2. My responses to some of the comments would include the following: 1. Our offer which included the forgiveness of debt (this is an immediate forgiveness and is not "spread over many years")represents debt that due to a reduction of interest rates in the economy arguably represents consideration together with the cash component of our offer that exceeds the $2.1 million apparently offered by another party. 2. The previous $2.1 million cash offer that was turned down by the CRC would have netted the CRC substantially less than $2.1 million. As a result even in hindsight the CRC was wise in turning down that offer. 3. With regard to "concerned Carmelite's" discussion of the previous financing Pedcor gave up $16.5 million in City debt in addition to the conveyance of the garage (appraised at $13 million)in exchange for the $22.5 million cash and debt obligations. The local media never discussed the $16.5 million in debt that we gave up which would show that we gave $29.5 million in value for the $23.5 million. 4.Pedcor would have been much happier if Brian was still operating his Deli and only made this offer as we believe that we can redevelop the building into something that will be better for the City and City Center where both Pedcor the citizens of Carmel have a large investment. Bruce Cordingley, President, Pedcor

  3. I've been looking for news on Corner Bakery, too, but there doesn't seem to be any info out there. I prefer them over Panera and Paradise so can't wait to see where they'll be!

  4. WGN actually is two channels: 1. WGN Chicago, seen only in Chicago (and parts of Canada) - this station is one of the flagship CW affiliates. 2. WGN America - a nationwide cable channel that doesn't carry any CW programming, and doesn't have local affiliates. (In addition, as WGN is owned by Tribune, just like WTTV, WTTK, and WXIN, I can't imagine they would do anything to help WISH.) In Indianapolis, CW programming is already seen on WTTV 4 and WTTK 29, and when CBS takes over those stations' main channels, the CW will move to a sub channel, such as 4.2 or 4.3 and 29.2 or 29.3. TBS is only a cable channel these days and does not affiliate with local stations. WISH could move the MyNetwork affiliation from WNDY 23 to WISH 8, but I am beginning to think they may prefer to put together their own lineup of syndicated programming instead. While much of it would be "reruns" from broadcast or cable, that's pretty much what the MyNetwork does these days anyway. So since WISH has the choice, they may want to customize their lineup by choosing programs that they feel will garner better ratings in this market.

  5. The Pedcor debt is from the CRC paying ~$23M for the Pedcor's parking garage at City Center that is apprased at $13M. Why did we pay over the top money for a private businesses parking? What did we get out of it? Pedcor got free parking for their apartment and business tenants. Pedcor now gets another building for free that taxpayers have ~$3M tied up in. This is NOT a win win for taxpayers. It is just a win for Pedcor who contributes heavily to the Friends of Jim Brainard. The campaign reports are on the Hamilton County website. http://www2.hamiltoncounty.in.gov/publicdocs/Campaign%20Finance%20Images/defaultfiles.asp?ARG1=Campaign Finance Images&ARG2=/Brainard, Jim

ADVERTISEMENT