Steve Almond


7:00 pm. Minneapolis Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612.630.6174. Thu Oct 11.

Steve Almond, a long-ago and very occasional contributor to this paper, has written about a lot of things—chocolate, Condoleezza Rice, rock 'n' roll, the soul's survival in a land of narcissism, materialism, and duplicity—but he's particularly known for writing about sex, which is understandable because he writes about sex (and desire, and love) with a blend of wit, lust, piggishness, and sensitivity that brings to mind Portnoy's-era Philip Roth. He will make you laugh and he will make you cringe. Probably he will piss you off. His new set of essays and occasional pieces, (Not That You Asked): Rants, Exploits, and Obsessions, contains several passages over which I let out moans of sympathetic embarrassment loud enough to concern my wife. One such passage, from a piece surveying the writer's trials as an adolescent horndog, brings together Almond's mother, a condom (used), and the Almond family's gustatorily indiscriminate Labrador retriever. Grody! And great, and, impressively, not cheap. Almond is a searching, cranky, idealistic enemy of hypocrisy, and it's not that the man has no shame; it's that he has no shame about his shame. Put another way, his soul is bigger than his cock (which, he reports, is about the average size). He also has a way with short sentences and colons: An example found in "The Body in Extremis," a story from his 2002 collection, My Life in Heavy Metal: "People reacted to me somewhat too strongly. Frequently they would ask: 'Are you from New York?'" Rants also include a series of letters to Oprah Winfrey; a sly, shooting-fish-in-a-lunch-pail piece about a sort of unrequited feud between Almond and a pompous blogger; and appreciations of Barry Hannah, Kurt Vonnegut, and Tesla (the band, you might have already guessed, not the scientist). Free.