Steve Almond’s latest book of non-fiction, Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life, is written for “Drooling Fanatics,” people, like Almond himself, whose fixations with music take on an almost religious fervor. Almond’s past works include story collections My Life in Heavy Metal and The Evil B.B. Chow, the novel Which Brings Me to You (with Julianna Baggott), and the non-fiction books Candyfreak and (Not That You Asked). He is also a TNB contributor, and his submissions have ranged from a self-interview to a criticism of fellow contributor Joe Daley’s “Five Bands I Should Like, but I Don’t. At All.” The latter ruffled some feathers at TNB, and Steve accepted my offer to talk about the dust-up, Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life, and the larger concerns of his work.

Last week, I went to my first reading in a while. It was Steve Almond, at Powell’s, with the candlestick.

(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.

There are a couple of scenes in A Common Pornography where you have sexual encounters with men. Were these moments erotic to you at the time?

You use the word “encounters” like they were aliens. But those particular moments were not really erotic. I’ve had other experiences with guys that were much hotter.


So, are you bisexual?

As Kurt Cobain said, “Everyone is gay.” But I would say that I mostly identify as a queer straight.


When you were driving around naked at the beginning of the book, something that happened just a couple of years ago, were you aroused?

No, but I’ve driven around like that too.


If you were to drive around naked now, what song would you crank on the car stereo?

Something perverse like Beethoven.


Do you have any bumper stickers on your car?

I have an Obama/Biden sticker that was printed by our union at Powell’s (the ILWU—longshoreman, bitches!) and a big Cardinals emblem because they’re my favorite football team.


Do you read the reviews of your books?

I do, and they’re good for the most part. I’ve gotten a few bad reviews too though. They do hurt my feelings sometimes. I could easily go to Twitter or Facebook or wherever and talk about how much of a bitch so and so from the Boston News or Minnesota Herald is, but I restrain myself. I don’t want to cause negative drama or to look like a baby. We’re all professionals here, right?


What’s the worst thing that someone has said about A Common Pornography?

One blogger said it was “one of the three worst books of the year.” A pretty funny thing to say actually—I mean to come up with the number three! Hahaha. He has the rest of the year to find two worse books than mine. But really, it’s no big deal. I know that some people are just not the right person or reader for the book. I want everyone to like it, but that’s not going to happen. Still, if you don’t like the book, then something is wrong with you.


You have been part of the independent publishing scene for about twenty years, what are some of the other publishers you admire?

That’s kind of a stock question, isn’t it?


Let me rephrase it. Which small publishers would you marry, fuck, and kill?

I would marry Akashic because they’re adventurous and treat their people well. I would fuck Cleis because they put out a lot of dirty books and they’re probably good in bed. And I’d kill Publishing Genius Press because they’re from Baltimore and I heard it’s easy to get away with murder there. Plus I think Adam Robinson owes me ten bucks.


Has anyone from your past contacted you about your book?

A couple of people. It’s interesting to hear the reaction from old girlfriends especially. Erin, who was my first girlfriend that I lived with said, “I don’t remember doing some of those awful things, but they sound true.” Another girl that I mention very briefly in the book sent me a message and said she was glad that I didn’t use her real name—but she meant it in a nice way I think. And I hate to even talk about this but my first high school girlfriend tracked me down and sent me a typo-riddled Facebook message. She’s one of the few people I really have no interest in talking to. It made me a little sick to see her note. I’m a really positive and friendly person and I don’t believe in hating people, but I have to say that I kind of hate her still.


After working on a memoir, is it hard to get back into fiction?

I’ve found it extremely hard. I tried to start a novel last year, a few months before ACP came out, and I hit a roadblock after about 20 pages. I still like the idea of it though, so I hope to get back into that. In the meantime, I have written a couple of other nonfiction pieces. One of them was about dirty talk and then something about music memories. l I also have a pretty funny essay about my vasectomy operation but I haven’t sold it to anyone yet.


Is it true that you proposed to your girlfriend at the end of your Powell’s reading back in February?

A: Why, yes, that is true. And no, we did not recreate the moment when I read in other cities, although some people wanted us to. You can actually see an across the room view of the proposal on Youtube. We’re hoping to get hitched before the end of the year.