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. Those of you yelling to deport them all should at least understand that the law allows minors (if not from a bordering country) to argue for asylum. If you don't like the law, you can petition Congress to change it. But you can't blindly scream that they all need to be deported now, unless you want your government to just decide which laws to follow and which to ignore.

  2. 52,000 children in a country with a population of nearly 300 million is decimal dust or a nano-amount of people that can be easily absorbed. In addition, the flow of children from central American countries is decreasing. BL - the country can easily absorb these children while at the same time trying to discourage more children from coming. There is tension between economic concerns and the values of Judeo-Christian believers. But, I cannot see how the economic argument can stand up against the values of the believers, which most people in this country espouse (but perhaps don't practice). The Governor, who is an alleged religious man and a family man, seems to favor the economic argument; I do not see how his position is tenable under the circumstances. Yes, this is a complicated situation made worse by politics but....these are helpless children without parents and many want to simply "ship" them back to who knows where. Where are our Hoosier hearts? I thought the term Hoosier was synonymous with hospitable.

  3. Illegal aliens. Not undocumented workers (too young anyway). I note that this article never uses the word illegal and calls them immigrants. Being married to a naturalized citizen, these people are criminals and need to be deported as soon as humanly possible. The border needs to be closed NOW.

  4. Send them back NOW.

  5. deport now

ADVERTISEMENT