Thursday, April 22, 2010

Conflicted about Steve Almond

Friday, April 23: Steve Almond @ Real Art Ways, Hartford

First a little bit about this event: Steve Almond will read from and discuss his new book, Rock and Roll will Save Your Life: A Book by and for the Fanatics Among Us (With Bitchin' Soundtrack). According to Almond, the book is about coming to grips with and celebrating being a Drooling Fanatic. The event will incorporate music, embarrassing pictures of folks with their bad rock n roll hair, and seems to be Almond's attempt to be the rock star sans musical talent. In a recent interview with the Courant (which is interesting stuff, read it), Almond speaks of finally having to admit to himself, at 42, that he wasn't going to be an actual musical rock star or musician.

Almond has made a career as a memoirist/humorist His first LP book was Candyfreak (which also has a long subtitle), which chronicled his exploration of candy bar manufactures around the country. He's got another one called (Not that You Asked) Rants, Exploits and Obsessions, presumably about just that. I have read none of these.

I have also avoided reading anything by one Chuck Klosterman, a guy with similar credentials. This is, of course, because I am jealous. I too have been a pop culture fan and journalist, with no other particular talents or qualifications. I also have no claim to expertise, other than that I am amused by the sound of my written voice, believe that I am the last word on everything, and that my deeply subjective takes on cultural artifacts are fascinating. But I haven't figured out how to rocket to rock star rock journalist status. I really don't even get paid anymore.

Of course this is my fault, for not really trying. I haven't written a book. End of story. But does it really end there? Is it possible that neurotic culture nerd memoir-ism a boys club? Guys have such a script of awkwardness to fall back on - the "can't get a date" perpetual adolescent who drowns himself in geeky obsessions like heavy metal and comic books. Will you believe in femi-nerdiness too? And will I have to look and sound like Sarah Vowell (or Klosterman), forgo such things as sunlight, exercise, and good nutrition to convince you? OK, that's potshots and speculation, and I haven't earned it, but look at these people:

Almond himself looks healthy enough (he should stop fronting about being a geek):

Maybe I have what it takes. I spent hours as a teenager (and a little beyond) practicing guitar - learning songs by Pink Floyd and Metallica, going over scales and modes, desperately hoping the latter would start to stick and some alchemy would transform memorization and mechanics into originality or talent.

It didnt.

Will you believe in my unfashionability? I had an epic collection of black t-shirts advertising my favorite bands: Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Type O Negative. I wore men's suit pants and military boots and jackets. But I swear, I was an outcast even among the metalheads. Probably on account of being problematically female.

Other geeky things: I went rollerblading. Read all the Dune books. Was accused of devil worship, lesbianism.

In spite of endless ridicule for my outlandish taste in music and everything else by my uninhibited peers, I came through it all with a certainty that my taste was superior. Some teachers may have given me the impression that my writing was good. I got it into my head to be a music journalist, recreationally at first. A small taste of freebies and exciting celebrity encounters (Ronnie James Dio!) at the college paper only whetted my appetite. Pretty soon I was a published student intern at the Hartford Advocate. Months later I turned pro. Would you believe the current economy for music/nonsense journalism is terrible though? Boo.

I have some interesting stories about all this. Maybe I will write that book. Or JS and I have discussed pitching our hot blog as the next great HBO dramedy series (remember Six Feet Under?) about the gritty realities of underemployed sadulthood in CT. Stay tuned.

And go see Steve Almond.

1 comment:

  1. This is the post I've been waiting for you to write since we met lo these many years ago. Underachiever's of the greater Hartford area unite! Actually, that's not fair. You've achieved a lot, including absconding off to the Hinterlands ostensibly to be an au pair, but secretly to revel in the primordial ooze of authentic Scandinavian black metal.