(Wait. Scratch the candlestick part. It was just Steve Almond at Powell’s.)
I enjoyed myself. Steve was charming and funny and irreverent. Particularly heartening was seeing probably 100 people show up for a reading by an author who was promoting something that could be described as rock lit. As a fellow tribesman of that woefully underpopulated genre, I can now fantasize that someday 100 people might show up to Powell’s to watch me goof off for an hour.
Now, before you get all, “Sir, I know Steve Almond, and you are no Steve Almond,” let me just clarify that I’m with you there. Steve Almond is the rare talent that can take my generation’s yearnings and predilections, filter them through Pigeon Feathers-era Updike, and try–successfully I think–to give us something that is both us, and art. Almond’s work–no doubt not every morsel, but much of it–transcends the minutia he’s pretending to write about. He’s using the fluff of our era to create literature, and that’s quite a trick.
So, there I am, listening to Steve Almond hold court, and I imagine it’s me who’s charming those 100 folks, making them laugh, playing off seemingly inane things that happen in the audience, stopping for a moment to get all misty-eyed about Willie Nelson. I was quite engaging, I assure you.
Then, when the reading was over, I did something strange.
I bought a copy of Rock and Roll will save your Life.
“Um, chuh,” you say. “That’s what you’re supposed to do after a reading.”
Sure, but this particular purchase is significant to me for three reasons.
1) It gets me past a mild but tenacious strain of Steve Almond jealousy I’ve been carrying with me for about a decade. This will be only the second Almond book I’ve read, the first being My Life in Heavy Metal, which, in a concentrated effort of suppressed book envy, I bought used a couple of years ago. Therefore, this current purchase is the first money I’ve ever spent that Almond will actually see a percentage of. This round’s on me, Steve.
2) It’s a hardback. I don’t buy hardbacks because I don’t like hardbacks. They’re more expensive than paperbacks, they’re heavier than paperbacks, and they’re not quite as accommodating as paperbacks. A hardback, to me, is a collector’s edition, which seems like something I’m not supposed to read but “cherish” somehow. I’d just muck it up. But I bought this heavily discounted hardback anyway. Why?
3) Because I want to participate in our literature as it happens. Waiting for the paperback means, on some level, missing the moment. If the rock lit soup gets cooking with this title–and I hope it does–I want to be right there in the kitchen, staring down into the pot, enjoying the aroma–or the stench, if that’s what it is. The paperback, in this sense, means cold soup.
And I’m not talking gazpacho here. I’m talking like some cold beef soup with globs of fat on top.
So, I’ll be reading Rock and Roll will save your Life, and probably enjoying it, and keeping an eye out for the green-eyed monster. I’ll keep you posted.
And if it isn’t any good, well, Steve Almond, I’d stay away from the conservatory if I were you.