Friday, October 3, 2008

Almond Joy

Last Saturday, writer Steve Almond appeared at the bookstore to give a reading. It’s an event that I anticipated with a level of glee that threatened my studied facade of literary snob detachment. I had to school myself to avoid unflattering comparisons to thirteen-year-old girls at their first Avril Lavigne concert. Which is why I determined not to blog about the event: I wanted to avoid looking like a sycophantic fan-girl.

Why then, you might ask, am I blogging about it now? I’m getting there.

I’ll come clean: my adoration of Steve Almond has little to do with his writing, even though I thoroughly endorse his work. My devotion is the result of living in Boston in 2006, when he made the kind of stand that most of us only fantasize about. Boston College had invited Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to be their commencement speaker that year, and Almond responded by resigning his post as adjunct professor of English. He did so publicly, in an editorial that was published in the Boston Globe. And Boston -- nay, the nation -- exploded. Was it because they were so supportive of Condoleezza Rice? Polling numbers would indicate otherwise. I suspect it has more to do with Almond’s blatant disregard for his financial security or popularity: a stance I applauded even as I wrote aggressively pandering publicity pieces to pay my rent. In short, Steve Almond boasted the balls I wished desperately to grow.

I also admired him for his ability to withstand the brainwashing that seems to overwhelm everyone who comes into contact with Boston College. I personally have encountered more than one BC alumna who received a gift of breast implants upon matriculation. Allow that to sink in for a moment: their parents actually bestowed heaving, silicone-infused bosoms to their daughters to reward -- wait for it -- their hard work and intelligence. I saw brilliant girls attending BC become more concerned about Coach purses than, well, Condoleezza Rice’s official title or job performance.

Almond’s in-store appearance was everything I dreamed it could be. He ranted and mocked his audience, he elicited complaints from passersby, and he came with the New Times' recently retired Booze Pig, Colin Redding, who brought delicious, complimentary chocolate from Granny’s Chocolate Creations. I embarrassed myself by losing nerve and failing to ask an insightful question, then choked on my own tongue when I asked him to sign the books I had brought along. It was like a fairytale.

But this week, reading my freshly autographed copy of Not That You Asked, I came upon his rant “Blog Love,” in which he analyzes the role of the literary blog. In a rare moment of diplomacy, he is careful not to condemn all blogs. But he asks the basic question -- why do they exist at all? What is the purpose? Comparing himself to literary blogger and outspoken Almond critic Mark Sarvas, he writes “We both face the same doomed task: to write in an era that has turned away from the written word.”

Is this what this blog is for? A last stand against the inevitable demise of literature as we know it?

Or is it simply a forum for me to reveal the deep, abiding fan-love that ensures I will never be cool?


No comments:

About Us

Tempe, Arizona, United States