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