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Interview

Steve Almond

Steve Almond Steve Almond is the author of the sentence, “I was a twelve-year-old whose hobbies were shoplifting and pyromania.” He writes beautiful fiction, and if you don’t know it you might dig it. Last month he published a nonfiction book about music, though he freely admits to thinking glissando is “a type of fancy ice cream” and vibrato is “a gynecological instrument.”

His latest book, Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life (Random House), represents a new kind of rock-and-roll writing: a book not about the arcs of careers or euphonics, but about the spiritual condition of loving to rock, to feeling one’s soul nudged about in its cradle. It’s also hysterically funny.

What we’re saying here is, beneath Mr. Almond’s wiry chest pelt rides a voice overflowing with grandeur and honesty. And the American Idol runner-up agrees.

We recently recently asked Mr. Almond to play a word association game. We spit out a phrase, he tells us the first song that soars into his magnificent and pointy head.

The Morning News: Ready?

Steve Almond: I’d just like to say, on behalf of myself and the rest of the Wiry Chest Pelts, that we’re delighted to be here with you this morning, and apologize in advance if our sound is a little tinny. Otto, our bass player, had to make an antibiotic run.

TMN: Well, here’s hoping Otto has some “Surgical Gloves.”

SA: Surgical Gloves? I’m going with the epic cover of “Crazy Train” turned out by Pat Boone in the late ’90s. That shit is white, tight, and sterile. (Note: This is not a joke. I own this album.)

TMN: “Out of Smokes in Uzbekistan.”

SA: “Jak bardzo mo?esz zmieni? si? by zmieni? sw? muzyk?” by the Polish hip-hop god Kazik Staszewski. But you knew that already.

TMN: “Sex Quaaludes.”

SA: “All Out of Love” by God, as channeled through Air Supply. I’m lying alone with my head on a phone. Really. I am.



TMN: “Ecstatic Rainy Day Stomp.”

SA: “Commie Drives a Nova” by Ike Reilly, from his criminally neglected 2001 LP Salesman and Racists.

TMN: “Thursday Two PM Basement Grooves.”

SA: A three-pack:
  1. “The One” by Cee-Lo Green (featuring Jazza Pha & T.I.).
  2. “Gin & Juice” by Snoop Dogg, as covered by the Gourds.
  3. “Always on the Wrong Side of Sunrise” by Head Like a Kite, featuring Tilson.


Remember to bring a change of underwear.

TMN: “Undeserved Obscurity.”

SA: “Winter in America” by Gil Scott-Heron. The fate of this country, correctly diagnosed as a lamentation. The guy should have his mug chiseled into Mt. Rushmore.

TMN: “You Heard It at Starbucks and That’s OK.”

SA: “When I Was Drinking” by HEM. And I didn’t hear it at Starbucks. Dammit.

TMN: “Breathy Dudes Wishing They Were English.”

SA: “Mostly Water” by Bap Kennedy. Kennedy is Irish, so I very much doubt he wants to be English. I just wanted an excuse to mention him. Another small miracle of the heart.

TMN: “That Bra Looks Uncomfortably Tight. Shall I Loosen It?”

SA: “Pretty Brown Skin” by Roy Ayers. This track should come with a dozen condoms, a half-gallon of spermicide, and a video of my son playing with his feces. But it doesn’t.

TMN: “It Can’t Be Wrong When It Feels So Right.”

SA: I realize you are now trying to provoke me into disclosing my illicit feelings toward Debby Boone. Sorry, dog. I’m not going to play that game. Debby and I have something deeper than religion. It’s like a super-powerful love virus for which there is no known vaccine. And all I have to do to infect the entire world is flick this here little switch, the one that says You Light Up My Life.



biopic

TMN Contributing Writer Anthony Doerr is the author of four books: The Shell Collector, About Grace, Four Seasons in Rome, and most recently, Memory Wall. He lives in Boise, Idaho, writes the “On Science” column for the Boston Globe, and is a 2010 Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Learn more at anthonydoerr.com. More by Anthony Doerr

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