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53 days, 14500 miles and 37 readings
 
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Editor's Note: On March 20, 2002, Steve Almond, a member of the creative writing faculty in the English Department, set out on a coast-to-coast, mostly self-funded reading tour to promote his book of short stories, My Life in Heavy Metal (Grove, 2002). For the next 52 days, Almond managed to tap out a series of "Roadog" e-mail reports, from which the following are excerpted.

VOLUME I, EARLY APRIL 2002
• "You can't do a keg stand in a prom dress, cuz your dress will fall up over the keg and no one will know how much you drank." Received wisdom from Angel Lynette Johnson, 20, of Harlin County, Kentucky, during the Greyhound bus ride from Harrisonburg, Virginia, to Washington, D.C.
• # of tattoos Angel Lynette Johnson showed the author: 2
• The author's chief calorie source on the road: Skittles
• Kritic's Korner: "Every couple of years, a writer comes along who tries so desperately to show that he's got his finger on the pulse of his times that it makes you wish the times would just die already. Bret Easton Ellis, Amy Tan, Jay McInerney--they keep on appearing, up-and-comers who wear zeitgeist like Armani and whose sole mission in life seems to be to fill us in on the difficulties of being young, affluent, pampered, and (horrors!) oversexed. Steve Almond . . . wants to join the list. . . . Almond writes nice sentences . . . unfortunately his frequent recourse to shallow epiphanies is just plain annoying. Almond complains at 7:00 p.m., Monday at Olsson's Books & Records." Washington City Pages, March 28

VOLUME II, MID-APRIL, 2002
• Highest turnout thus far: 137 people at the Oxford Conference for the Book, Oxford, Mississippi
• Lowest turnout: 1 person (Eric), Memphis
• Colloquy between the author & Red Bull Promotional Girls Julie & April, transcribed Tuesday, April 16, at Beaucoup Books in New Orleans:
Julie: Hey! That was really fun. This is, like, the first reading we've ever been to. We saw a thing about it in the paper.
April: Yeah, mostly we go to clubs.
Julie: It's our job. They send us out to check out cultural stuff. You know, just to hang and check out the scene.
Steve: You get paid for this?
April: Yeah! Isn't that cool?
Julie: It beats the hell out of handing out fliers.
April: Do you want a Red Bull? It's a delicious energy drink.
• Kritic's Korner: "Almond's first-person narrators are always saying embarrassingly arty things. . . . Though they're not the same people, they talk as if they are, one character after another indulging in the same effete verbal tics ("taking" lunch or "supper" rather than eating it, the implicit entitlement in the phrase not fitting the people talking). Almond can't write dialogue by instinct, and he doesn't think his language through." Greil Marcus, Salon.com

VOLUME III: MAY DAY! MAY DAY! 2002: SPECIAL SOUTH FLORIDA CRIME EDITION

• "Robert Blake is an object lesson in what happens to guys who fetishize their cockatoos." Received wisdom from Pingey Tetavicho, Miami Beach nightclub promoter
• Number of times the author has been patted down for explosives thus far: 7
• Number of audience members who have left a reading in order to go strip: 1
• Number of babies the author has kissed on tour: 9
• Kritic's Korner: "Never mind Almond's woefully inaccurate rendering of the female anatomy and its capabilities--call it literary license . . . worse is that Almond wraps up this story, as he does many others, with a preachy little summary of the preceding tale that leaves the reader with Something to Think About. ‘I was doing something even noble in the eyes of youth,' David says. ‘Radical, kickass, seeking love on all fronts, transporting myself beyond the reach of loneliness and failure, into the blessed province of poontang.' In a word: Yuck." The extremely insightful Ann M. Bauer, in the Minneapolis City Pages

VOLUME IV, MAY 2002
• Largest # of rock stars at a reading: 5 (Austin)
• Largest # of psychoanalysts at a reading: 12 (Palo Alto)
•"You look different. Fatter." Author's old pal Goeff welcomes him to Phoenix
• Pounds gained on the road: 11
• Ratio of bills to fan letters the author received upon opening his mail at home: 23/1
• Kritic's Korner: "Oh, were you gone?" The author's neighbor Jenna


Almond's story "The Pass" won a 2002 Pushcart Prize.



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  » Summit attempt
     
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  » Das encyclopedia
     
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  » Fighting words
     
  »  Writer's guide
     
  »  Class warfare
     
  »  News briefs
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  »  Steve Almond's Web site
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  »  Almond's new collection, My Life in Heavy Metal, is available at a special discount from the BC Bookstore


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