« PICADOR AFRICA | Main | WE ALL SAW THIS ONE COMING, DIDN'T WE? »

May 06, 2004

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d834515c2769e200d8342ad3c253ef

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference THE TRUTH MUST BE TOLD:

Comments

Jimmy Beck

Yes, I couldn't agree more. I haven't read Candyfreak, but his fiction is "lite fare" a la Lorrie Moore on a bad day and I've found his essays on Moby and his own website to be puerile, hamhanded, ill-conceived whining straight from the Eggers-Julavits assembly line.

He's coming to my town next week to give a reading. Will I be there? Absolutely. In fact I wouldn't miss it. Two words: free samples.

ARC


Yardley's like 100 so it doesn't matter what he thinks. His idea of candy is the bourbon soaked cherry at the bottom of a Manhattan (not thath there's anything wrong with that). Whether Almond's writing about candy, nipple clamps or himself, he's one of the most engaging writers out there, and he possesses something that Yardley sorely lacks: a sense of humor.

Your Anonymous Roving Correspondent

Tod Goldberg

I personally find his short fiction very engaging, though not in the way I find short fiction by, say, Tim O'Brien (or, well, the old Tim O'Brien)which engages me on a more intellectual level. Instead, it's more like reading about something from my own past, a memory of being a dumb kid in the 80s or being a dumb single person in the 90s. Basically, he makes me laugh, which isn't such a bad thing. He may be obsessed with himself, but I challenge you (the royal you, I mean) to find a writer who isn't.

Alan

"But distracting and ultimately annoying though all this narcissism is, there's also some interesting and occasionally amusing stuff."

To my eyes, this was less of a takedown of Almond than you seem to think. The author goes on to quote an entire long passage - out of grudging admiration, maybe? I don't know. Certainly not an unusual take on him - most every review of his fiction runs along the same lines: he's self-obsessed, sex-obsessed, immature. But most agree he is funny, and many (myself included) believe that he's a pretty skilled craftsman of engaging, generous, honest stories.

And since when is being funny bad? It's actually pretty hard to be funny in print. And though he may not be Franzen or Delillo, he's not exactly "lite" either. Not that there's anything wrong with "lite"....

I think part of the adulation that mystifies you - and hey, let's face it, this is adulation on a microscopic level, even by literary standards - is due to the fact that his stuff is accessible, and in some circles that appears to be a crime. Just my two cents....

Ed

Well, personally, I only recently referred to Steve Almond's work to prove a point about erotica. Which is not to suggest that I particularly care for the guy's work, but I do think, unlike Mr. Beck, that he has more going on than the Eggers/Julavits people. Then again, I don't know what the hell Beck's drinking right now (pass me some), because that's a bit like comparing "Fanny Hill" to "Everything is Illuminated."

Sarah

My fandom of Almond is as follows:

MY LIFE IN HEAVY METAL--I've read the collection about five times, cover to cover, and I don't do that with most books. Maybe it's Lorrie Moore "lite" (haven't read her, alas, though I plan to rectify that soon) but his fiction speaks to me.

But his essays, his weeklong turn at Bookslut--well, they were and are a bit of a mess. So what's going on?

Editing.

Almond has a voice, and when it works, it hits me like a sucker punch--reading a story like "Valentino" was like having a lightbulb go on in my head. "Oh," I thought, "so that's how teen boys tried to relate to each other." Because I knew kids that tried to be so cool in having specific knowledge, even if they didn't know shit.

But it's a voice that's very rough around the edges, that no doubt is helped along by whoever at Grove/Atlantic is guiding him (Morgan Entrenkin?) so when he's left to his own devices, well, it can be somewhat disastrous.

I'll probably get around to CANDYFREAK at some point soon, but I'm more excited about the next collection of short stories. Because hopefully, Almond's fiction voice will be honed even more, guided even further to what it can--and should--be.

Maud

I thought a couple of his stories were fine, but found Candyfreak unreadable.

Jimmy Beck

For the record, Ed, I'm drinking Manischevitz Concord Grape cut with Formula 409. And incidentally, both Fanny Hill and Foer's book are disjointed narratives and both are loved by Erica Jong, for starters. Only Cleland's book ever gave me wood, though....

FWIW, I was too dismissive of Almond's fiction--I've not read the whole collection, just some stories in Tin House, SQ, MAR and "This Company Died For Your Lawn..." in the Missouri Review. But I still find the nonfiction annoying. But I still want some fucking candy.

Bob Sassone

'Truth' according to who? I think by truth you mean 'honesty,' and really, honesty is just an opinion. Personally, I find Almond to be a fine writer. "My Life In Heavy Metal" and his new memoir "Candyfreak" are both well-written and entertaining. The short stories have a vivid bluntness lacking in most "literary" short fiction, and the candy book succeeds not only as a personal history, but as a study of candy history VIA personal history. What's wrong with the idea of tackling a bigger pop culture subject through personal memoir?

"Self-absorption is the engine that drives most memoirs these days..." Gee, I guess that's why they're called memoirs.

He may not be Franzen or Delillo? Thank God for that.

The comments to this entry are closed.

TEV DEFINED


  • The Elegant Variation is "Fowler’s (1926, 1965) term for the inept writer’s overstrained efforts at freshness or vividness of expression. Prose guilty of elegant variation calls attention to itself and doesn’t permit its ideas to seem naturally clear. It typically seeks fancy new words for familiar things, and it scrambles for synonyms in order to avoid at all costs repeating a word, even though repetition might be the natural, normal thing to do: The audience had a certain bovine placidity, instead of The audience was as placid as cows. Elegant variation is often the rock, and a stereotype, a cliché, or a tired metaphor the hard place between which inexperienced or foolish writers come to grief. The familiar middle ground in treating these homely topics is almost always the safest. In untrained or unrestrained hands, a thesaurus can be dangerous."

SECOND LOOK

  • The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

    Bs

    Penelope Fitzgerald's second novel is the tale of Florence Green, a widow who seeks, in the late 1950s, to bring a bookstore to an isolated British town, encountering all manner of obstacles, including incompetent builders, vindictive gentry, small minded bankers, an irritable poltergeist, but, above all, a town that might not, in fact, want a bookshop. Fitzgerald's prose is spare but evocative – there's no wasted effort and her work reminds one of Hemingway's dictum that every word should fight for its right to be on the page. Florence is an engaging creation, stubbornly committed to her plan even as uncertainty regarding the wisdom of the enterprise gnaws at her. But The Bookshop concerns itself, finally, with the astonishing vindictiveness of which provincials are capable, and, as so much English fiction must, it grapples with the inevitabilities of class. It's a dense marvel at 123 pages, a book you won't want to – or be able to – rush through.
  • The Rider by Tim Krabbe

    Rider_4

    Tim Krabbé's superb 1978 memoir-cum-novel is the single best book we've read about cycling, a book that will come closer to bringing you inside a grueling road race than anything else out there. A kilometer-by-kilometer look at just what is required to endure some of the most grueling terrain in the world, Krabbé explains the tactics, the choices and – above all – the grinding, endless, excruciating pain that every cyclist faces and makes it heart-pounding rather than expository or tedious. No writer has better captured both the agony and the determination to ride through the agony. He's an elegant stylist (ably served by Sam Garrett's fine translation) and The Rider manages to be that rarest hybrid – an authentic, accurate book about cycling that's a pleasure to read. "Non-racers," he writes. "The emptiness of those lives shocks me."