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How does Steve Almond get himself into so much trouble? Could it be his incessant moralizing? His generally poor posture? The fact that he was raised by a pack of wolves? Frankly, we haven't got a clue. What we do know is that Almond has a knack for converting his dustups into essays that are both funny and furious. In "(Not that You Asked)," he squares off against Sean Ha How does Steve Almond get himself into so much trouble? Could it be his incessant moralizing? His generally poor posture? The fact that he was raised by a pack of wolves? Frankly, we haven't got a clue. What we do know is that Almond has a knack for converting his dustups into essays that are both funny and furious. In "(Not that You Asked)," he squares off against Sean Hannity on national TV, nearly gets arrested for stealing "Sta-Hard" gel from his local pharmacy, and winds up in Boston, where he quickly enrages the entire population of the Red Sox Nation. Almond is, as they say in Yiddish, a tummler. Almond on personal grooming: "Why, exactly, did I feel it would be 'sexy' and 'hot' to have my girlfriend wax my chest? I can offer no good answer to this question today. I could offer no good answer at the time." On sports: "To be a fan is to live in a condition of willed helplessness. We are (for the most part) men who sit around and watch other men run and leap and sweat and grapple each other. It is a deeply homoerotic pattern of conduct, often interracial in nature, and essentially humiliating." On popular culture: "I have never actually owned a TV, a fact I mention whenever possible, in the hopes that it will make me seem noble and possibly lead to oral sex." On his literary hero, Kurt Vonnegut: "His books perform the greatest feat of alchemy known to man: the conversion of grief into laughter by means of courageous imagination." On religion: "Every year, when Chanukah season rolled around, my brothers and I would make the suburban pilgrimage to the home of our grandparents, where we would ring in the holiday with a big, juicy Chanukah ham." The essays in "(Not that You Asked)" will make you laugh out loud, or, maybe just as likely, hurl the book across the room. Either way, you'll find Steve Almond savagely entertaining. Not that you asked. "A pop-culture-saturated intellectual, a kindly grouch, vitriolic Boston Red Sox hater, neurotic new father and Kurt Vonnegut fanatic... [Almond] scores big in every chapter of this must-have collection. Biting humor, honesty, smarts and heart: Vonnegut himself would have been proud." ---- "Kirkus Reviews "(starred review)


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How does Steve Almond get himself into so much trouble? Could it be his incessant moralizing? His generally poor posture? The fact that he was raised by a pack of wolves? Frankly, we haven't got a clue. What we do know is that Almond has a knack for converting his dustups into essays that are both funny and furious. In "(Not that You Asked)," he squares off against Sean Ha How does Steve Almond get himself into so much trouble? Could it be his incessant moralizing? His generally poor posture? The fact that he was raised by a pack of wolves? Frankly, we haven't got a clue. What we do know is that Almond has a knack for converting his dustups into essays that are both funny and furious. In "(Not that You Asked)," he squares off against Sean Hannity on national TV, nearly gets arrested for stealing "Sta-Hard" gel from his local pharmacy, and winds up in Boston, where he quickly enrages the entire population of the Red Sox Nation. Almond is, as they say in Yiddish, a tummler. Almond on personal grooming: "Why, exactly, did I feel it would be 'sexy' and 'hot' to have my girlfriend wax my chest? I can offer no good answer to this question today. I could offer no good answer at the time." On sports: "To be a fan is to live in a condition of willed helplessness. We are (for the most part) men who sit around and watch other men run and leap and sweat and grapple each other. It is a deeply homoerotic pattern of conduct, often interracial in nature, and essentially humiliating." On popular culture: "I have never actually owned a TV, a fact I mention whenever possible, in the hopes that it will make me seem noble and possibly lead to oral sex." On his literary hero, Kurt Vonnegut: "His books perform the greatest feat of alchemy known to man: the conversion of grief into laughter by means of courageous imagination." On religion: "Every year, when Chanukah season rolled around, my brothers and I would make the suburban pilgrimage to the home of our grandparents, where we would ring in the holiday with a big, juicy Chanukah ham." The essays in "(Not that You Asked)" will make you laugh out loud, or, maybe just as likely, hurl the book across the room. Either way, you'll find Steve Almond savagely entertaining. Not that you asked. "A pop-culture-saturated intellectual, a kindly grouch, vitriolic Boston Red Sox hater, neurotic new father and Kurt Vonnegut fanatic... [Almond] scores big in every chapter of this must-have collection. Biting humor, honesty, smarts and heart: Vonnegut himself would have been proud." ---- "Kirkus Reviews "(starred review)

30 review for Not That You Asked: Rants, Exploits, and Obsessions

  1. 4 out of 5

    Calli

    I don't quite know how to even rate this book. Pros: Almond can be funny. Really funny. He can be introspective, insightful, honest. His Vonnegut chapter almost brought me to tears. Talking about his baby daughter had me actually laughing out loud. Parts of this were wonderful. Cons: Not to sound like the lit blogger he disliked (God help me), but holy shit, man, please talk about your dick less. Please. I beg you. You don't have to never mention it. You don't have to pretend it doesn't exist. But I don't quite know how to even rate this book. Pros: Almond can be funny. Really funny. He can be introspective, insightful, honest. His Vonnegut chapter almost brought me to tears. Talking about his baby daughter had me actually laughing out loud. Parts of this were wonderful. Cons: Not to sound like the lit blogger he disliked (God help me), but holy shit, man, please talk about your dick less. Please. I beg you. You don't have to never mention it. You don't have to pretend it doesn't exist. But come on. I can't properly describe how little I needed an history of your penis. Also, women aren't people in this book. They're not. Every single woman is described by her tits, her curves, her overall attractiveness. The literal only exception is his daughter. His wife is allowed exactly one extra character trait: pregnancy. He can be such a phenomenal writer sometimes that it just is frustrating to me that he takes the lazy way out whenever he talks about women. I realize this sounds rant-y, but I really like a bunch of Almond's writing. If I didn't know he was great, I wouldn't care as much. It was just frustrating to be reading a writer I truly like and to feel so wildly uncomfortable through so much of the book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Vaguely amusing waste of time. The type of thing 812 other well-spoken, accident-prone, socially awkward white dudes are cranking out. I'm trying to say something nice about at least one of the chapters, but I'm honestly having a hard time remembering what any of them were about. I hear positive things about this guy, so I suspect I should have started with either the metal or the candy book, and maybe I will and maybe I won't. Based on what I've read thus far, I'm certainly not going to make a Vaguely amusing waste of time. The type of thing 812 other well-spoken, accident-prone, socially awkward white dudes are cranking out. I'm trying to say something nice about at least one of the chapters, but I'm honestly having a hard time remembering what any of them were about. I hear positive things about this guy, so I suspect I should have started with either the metal or the candy book, and maybe I will and maybe I won't. Based on what I've read thus far, I'm certainly not going to make a beeline for the nearest bookstore and blubberingly implore the wary retailer for directions to the Funny Nerd section, that I might encumber my humble tote bag with slyly self-effacing Almond manifestos. All right, I remembered one of the "essays": two guys make lobster pad thai, and Steve Almond eats and enjoys it. I got take-out General Tso's the other night and it wasn't bad. Anybody wanna be my agent?

  3. 4 out of 5

    Gina Boyd

    Steve Almond wrote in Candyfreak that he used to roll around in piles of candy when he was a kid. Now that he’s (chronologically, anyway) an adult, I think he’d like to roll around in piles of words. Almond is the kind of writer who sees and feels and loves and hates with abandon, and it’s clear that if he couldn’t put the words on the page, he’d explode. This collection of essays includes among other things, a tribute to Kurt Vonnegut, an explanation as to why Almond would like the Red Sox Natio Steve Almond wrote in Candyfreak that he used to roll around in piles of candy when he was a kid. Now that he’s (chronologically, anyway) an adult, I think he’d like to roll around in piles of words. Almond is the kind of writer who sees and feels and loves and hates with abandon, and it’s clear that if he couldn’t put the words on the page, he’d explode. This collection of essays includes among other things, a tribute to Kurt Vonnegut, an explanation as to why Almond would like the Red Sox Nation to SHUT UP (which is engaging even if, like me, you don’t care at all about baseball), some of Almond’s early experiences with sex, and an account of the first few days of his daughter’s life, in which he was sure he had killed her at least a dozen times—and which made me have to take off my glasses and wipe tears from my eyes, because I couldn’t stop laughing. This is one of those books that I must purchase—right away and in hard cover—just because I want to support the author. If you care about words and writing, you can’t pass up this book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    The opening salvo of Steve Almond's collection of essays, "(Not that You Asked)" was a shocker. It's title: "Dear Oprah." Almond opens with a "pre-emptive" letter to Winfrey, rejecting her "offer" to make this volume one of her book club selections. It's laced with profanity, insult and the accusation that her commercializing of literature doesn't inspire new readers, it actually cheapens the work, and damages the integrity of the medium. A series of humorous "apology" letters follow, attempting The opening salvo of Steve Almond's collection of essays, "(Not that You Asked)" was a shocker. It's title: "Dear Oprah." Almond opens with a "pre-emptive" letter to Winfrey, rejecting her "offer" to make this volume one of her book club selections. It's laced with profanity, insult and the accusation that her commercializing of literature doesn't inspire new readers, it actually cheapens the work, and damages the integrity of the medium. A series of humorous "apology" letters follow, attempting to "undo" the damage of the first, but the sentiment behind the words ring true as a theme that Almond hammers home repeatedly through his essays. His collective works read, in parts, like a self-congratulatory man's man stream of consciousness. They're chock full of profanity and sex, locker room or poker game conversation. But it is also full of iron and unapologetic opinion about those things which Almond feels strongly about: the integrity of literature; the emptiness of popular media; the responsibility of mankind. While it wasn't clear to me at the time, the second essay about Kurt Vonnegut continued to lay Almond's sense of responsibility as a writer. Vonnegut "had spent his entire life writing stories and essays and novels in the naked hope that he might redeem his readers," Almond writes. "As grim and dystopic as some of those books were, every one was written under the assumption that human beings are capable of a greater decency. And not because of God's will. . . but because of their simple duty to others of their kind." So when Almond is taking his pokes at Oprah, Reality TV, Red Sox Nation, Weblogs and the popular media, he isn't just giving us a rant for rant's sake. He is trying to wake his readers up, and show them that the consumption of these slices of popular culture are weakening our ability to be thinking beings, that we're capable of greater things than what we have allowed our lives to lazily settle into, and on which we have placed far too much value. I can forgive the essay where he writes about his first sexual experience at camp, where he starts the telling of the anecdote as a 14-year-old, but ends the same narrative as a 13-year-old. A simple over-sight, I suppose. And I can forgive the shock value and edginess in parts of the essays, as Almond bombards us with profanity and sexuality, particularly his essay on how to write sex scenes through a 12-step approach. I forgive all of it because the underlying message is woven so craftily through the volume. Almond writes of an encounter with a young student who came to see him at an appearance, after the media blitz ended. "After the reading, a young man named Tyler came to get his book signed. He told me he thought maybe he wanted to be a writer. He didn't know exactly. But he felt certain things when he read books and he wanted that, to be able to feel those things, and maybe to make other people feel them, too." And there it is. That simple statement summarizes the underlying Almond philosophy: that books should make people feel things deep in their core, and that a writer's responsibility is to elicit those feelings, and inspire. And Almond's book of "Rants, Exploits, and Obsessions" does just that.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Randy

    10 Ways I Killed My Daughter Within Her First 72 Hour Of Life I rarely even chuckle aloud while reading, and almost never cry at the written word, but while lying in bed, 11:30 Saturday night, alone (which my husband—who was away—will be happy to know,) I smiled, laughed, and then almost cried, as I read this Steve Almond essay from his book titled (Not That You Asked): Rants, Exploits, and Obsessions. My family tends toward a bent sense of humor. From an early age, my sister, Jill, and I coped w 10 Ways I Killed My Daughter Within Her First 72 Hour Of Life I rarely even chuckle aloud while reading, and almost never cry at the written word, but while lying in bed, 11:30 Saturday night, alone (which my husband—who was away—will be happy to know,) I smiled, laughed, and then almost cried, as I read this Steve Almond essay from his book titled (Not That You Asked): Rants, Exploits, and Obsessions. My family tends toward a bent sense of humor. From an early age, my sister, Jill, and I coped with our twisted lives (drug-daddy! klepto-grandma!) by developing twisted comedic sensibilities. Together, we’re willing to turn almost anything into a punch line. It’s how we manage emotions. Or maybe, we’re just warped. Almond, letting loose on the intense and usually private fears all new parents have of screwing up, hurting, misreading, miscalculating, forgetting, accidently killing their vulnerable newborns, presents the topic in a particularly (and seemingly- deliberate) comedic, male, extreme, I’m-not-gonna-admit-my-vulnerabilty-without-a-fight style. And it made me laugh. A lot. And that made me wonder. Why? What tickled me so, reading this piece? First, some examples, so you can judge for yourself (and if you find his essay Disgusting-and-Not-Funny, please know that Almond stole my website sign-in and my password, and he actually ghostwrote this blog.) From the essay: Death # 2 Broken Vertebrae Age of Deceased: 4 Hours “In the maternity ward, the nurses tell us not to worry. They tell us to get some rest. We are both totally in awe of the nurses. If the nurses told us the bathe the baby in lye, our only question would be, “Should we heat the lye? . . . I am for the first time alone with Baby, whom I was supposed to swaddle into a tight little burrito, though she looks more like a defective veggie wrap As I set her down to sleep, she throws her arms up in the air and waves them like she just doesn’t care. Later on, it will be explained to me that this is normal, something called the Moro Reflex. For now, I am briefly convinced baby has a future in hip-hop.” Almond goes on to describe how he accidently tips his daughter from her side, onto her stomach into what he calls the “Position of Death” and how he tries to fix it: “Gravity—that first cruel joke—sends her tumbling off my hands and onto her shoulder. Her muscleless neck twists at a grisly angle. “Baby,” I whisper. “Baby!” I give baby a light shove. But Baby does not move. “Baby, I plead. “ Please don’t be dead.” Baby, curled up like a brine shrimp, remains dead. I poke her in the tummy, probably harder than is appropriate. Baby spits up in my hand. Okay, I got it. I know why I loved this essay. Typing it out helped me think. What made me laugh at Almond’s words—laugh in that terrified, oh, God, I-hate- those-fears manner—was the same literary ingredient enraptured me in the very different SUICIDE INDEX by Joan Wickersham. Truth. Comedy edged truth. Elegantly phrased truth. Unfussy, unsentimental truth. For me, the best books, the best essays, the best poems, make me say oh God, me too about things we can barely admit to ourselves. Things that when we read them, remind us that we are not alone, not even in our crazy-times. As Almond was not alone, because the fear of doing one incredibly stupid thing and then losing my baby had me by the throat from the moment that pregnancy test confirmed my future. That’s the thing about being a parent. It’s not the diapers, the midnight feedings, driving around at three in the morning to get her to sleep. It’s this: In the time it takes for the baby to enter this world, every bit of serenity you have disappears. All equanimity rests on Baby being alive. Please God, healthy. And one more thing, please, God. Bring her contentment. And it never ends. So we need to laugh, right?

  6. 4 out of 5

    Matt Evans

    What you want to know is this: (NTYA) is at times laugh-out-loud funny, at times hee-haw funny, at times poignant, at times trenchant and humane--but always compulsively readable. If you like David Foster Wallace's essays for their humor, insight and high-caliber prose then you will LOVE (NTYA). Is (NTYA) worth your money? Absolutely. You'll spend more money on two movie tickets (forget the popcorn and coke) and have way less fun. So do it already: hustle your clicker over to the order button an What you want to know is this: (NTYA) is at times laugh-out-loud funny, at times hee-haw funny, at times poignant, at times trenchant and humane--but always compulsively readable. If you like David Foster Wallace's essays for their humor, insight and high-caliber prose then you will LOVE (NTYA). Is (NTYA) worth your money? Absolutely. You'll spend more money on two movie tickets (forget the popcorn and coke) and have way less fun. So do it already: hustle your clicker over to the order button and get the man paid. Now! If you've never before read Almond, then you, my review-reading friend, are in for a treat. (NTYA) will introduce you to one of the best authors currently wringing prose from laptop. I've read every one of Almond's books, and I like this one the best. What I haven't yet mentioned is the fact that Almond's essay on Demagogue Days not only confirmed my belief that Fox News is an intellectual and moral Gomorrah; but it also schooled me on how to better approach my duties as a citizen. Morality matters, is Almond's message, and he brings it home without getting preachy. Not only will Almond's stuff entertain you, it will guide you right; and unlike Bill Bennett's Book of Virtues, you won't find out later that Almond's a big, fat gambling-addicted hypocrite. Nope. He's straight forward about his vices. (Hint: S. Almond = pervert.) Buy this book. Buy it now. (Full disclosure: I'm not related to Almond, I don't live near him, I've met him only a handful of times, and I'm a registered Republican.)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Brendan

    The title is your first clue that these essays are not serious or literary or, for the most part, attempts at understanding anything. (Not to get all hung up on Montaigne, but that’s what essays, by definition, are: attempts at understanding.) Almond, author of the 2004 short story collection Candyfreak, makes noises about the “little thrush of beauty” that “unfurls” when a writer really nails it. He confesses to “an embarrassing yearning for beauty” and scolds his readers for “wolfing down burg The title is your first clue that these essays are not serious or literary or, for the most part, attempts at understanding anything. (Not to get all hung up on Montaigne, but that’s what essays, by definition, are: attempts at understanding.) Almond, author of the 2004 short story collection Candyfreak, makes noises about the “little thrush of beauty” that “unfurls” when a writer really nails it. He confesses to “an embarrassing yearning for beauty” and scolds his readers for “wolfing down burgers from Fat Food” when they could be purchasing art. “Hold your one and only heart to a higher standard,” he tells them. But this sort of preaching would be easier to take from a writer who hadn’t already inflicted upon his audience a description of “the more obvious, quotidian perks of fame, by which I mean the opportunity to ejaculate on Paris Hilton’s face.”

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dave Clapper

    Just got the galley of this from Steve's publisher on Friday and started reading it last night. The second piece in the book, "Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt," a piece about Kurt Vonnegut, is absolutely five stars. It moves me and reminds me of why I started to write, the man who was my greatest influence, and the ways in which I've deliberately distanced myself from him, just as Steve has. Like Steve, I'm embarrassed and ashamed at that distancing. And I now find myself more inpsired Just got the galley of this from Steve's publisher on Friday and started reading it last night. The second piece in the book, "Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt," a piece about Kurt Vonnegut, is absolutely five stars. It moves me and reminds me of why I started to write, the man who was my greatest influence, and the ways in which I've deliberately distanced myself from him, just as Steve has. Like Steve, I'm embarrassed and ashamed at that distancing. And I now find myself more inpsired to write than I have been in a few years. If that's not worth five stars, I don't know what is, but I'll wait to rate the book until I've finished the whole thing.

  9. 5 out of 5

    S. Wilson

    I wasn't familiar with Steve Almond before reading this collection of essays. I am much more familiar with him now. Not that I asked. Not That You Asked is that kind of essay collection that tends to get attention these days; a personal memoir that is equally narcissistic and self-deprecating, humorous yet poignant, and involves more discussion about the author's sex life than was necessary. None of these are negative critiques, especially the narcissistic and self-deprecating part, which if we'r I wasn't familiar with Steve Almond before reading this collection of essays. I am much more familiar with him now. Not that I asked. Not That You Asked is that kind of essay collection that tends to get attention these days; a personal memoir that is equally narcissistic and self-deprecating, humorous yet poignant, and involves more discussion about the author's sex life than was necessary. None of these are negative critiques, especially the narcissistic and self-deprecating part, which if we're perfectly honest with ourselves, is how most of us approach the real world on a daily basis. Like most interesting people, Almond has a very eclectic range of interests, which usually means that you might be less than interested in some of topics touched on in his essays. Personally, the highlights in this collection are the essays that touch on literary themes (Kurt Vonnegut, Bloggers, Writers) and cultural criticism (Reality TV, Politics, Dead Bodies). The parts about sex, sports, and fatherhood? Not so much. But beyond personal preferences, Almond is a funny with a serious side, and no matter what he is writing about, he always manages to make it relate to the human experience that we are all currently fumbling around like lunatics.

  10. 4 out of 5

    J. A. White

    I expected to love this book. If the long rant about baseball had not been included I probably would have, but it took everything I had not to skip that part and put a serious damper on my enthusiasm for the book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Arlene Miller

    I couldn’t get through it. Boring.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Perry

    Books don't often make me laugh, but this one got me a couple of times. Rolling in candy? The Vonnegut essay was really good. Books don't often make me laugh, but this one got me a couple of times. Rolling in candy? The Vonnegut essay was really good.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Really enjoyable read, I personally love Steve Almond's voice, reading his work feels like a conversation Really enjoyable read, I personally love Steve Almond's voice, reading his work feels like a conversation

  14. 4 out of 5

    David Sasaki

    Woody Allen, David Sedaris, Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, Ira Glass, at least half of the usual contributors to This American Life, and probably half of NPR too. Oh, and yes, Steve Almond. They are funny. They are eloquent. They are insightful. They know a little bit about everything and know how to make us laugh while we nod our heads and say, yes, exactly, that's what I've been wanting to, trying to say. They are liberal, all of them. Their sense of comedic timing is orchest Woody Allen, David Sedaris, Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, Ira Glass, at least half of the usual contributors to This American Life, and probably half of NPR too. Oh, and yes, Steve Almond. They are funny. They are eloquent. They are insightful. They know a little bit about everything and know how to make us laugh while we nod our heads and say, yes, exactly, that's what I've been wanting to, trying to say. They are liberal, all of them. Their sense of comedic timing is orchestral. And their prodigious output makes one wonder if every one of them has a 24/7 Woody Allen monologue running through their heads, which they are kind enough to occasionally put down on paper and share with the comparative glob of ineloquence know as the rest of the world. Have I mentioned yet that they are all Jewish? There are other eloquent, funny, and ironic writers out there who are not Jewish. Like Dave Eggers, Nick Hornby, and, um, Dave Eggers. But for the most part, if you want to be silver-tongued, you better be circumcised. (Google's second return for 'comedic timing' - admittedly following Britney Spears - comes from jewishjournal.com). Let me say, first off, that I am absolutely in love with all of the above-mentioned comedians/writers/Jews. Huge man crushes. I would cuddle with both Ira Glass and Jon Stewart. At the same time, naturally, so long as I were in the middle. And yes, predictably, I loved every essay and sub-essay and even footnote in Steve Almond's (Not that You Asked). Just like with the Daily Show and This American Life, I laughed out loud, I pondered reflectively, and I nodded my head along in enthusiastic affirmation. Steve loves Vonnegut, I love Vonnegut. Steve loves to hate TV, I love to hate TV. Steve glorifies the little guy, himself included, as do I. So why four stars instead of five? Why, in fact, had I hovered my mouse for a few seconds over the 'just ok' third yellow star? Because I largely agree with Jeremy, who writes: The type of thing 812 other well-spoken, accident-prone, socially awkward white dudes are cranking out. And also: All right, I remembered one of the "essays": two guys make lobster pad thai, and Steve Almond eats and enjoys it. I got take-out General Tso's the other night and it wasn't bad. Anybody wanna be my agent? Which is to say, as much as I laughed out loud and happily kept turning the pages, I didn't actually learn or gain anything from the book after the second chapter. Making pad thai, the Red Sox - A's series, masturbating in the jacuzzi ... it's all a little bit like a season of Friends, not what Almond so insistently refers to as literature and real art when distinguishing himself from his blogger critics (who he loves and hates and loves to hate). On May 12, 2006 Steve Almond wrote a letter to the Boston Globe, addressed to Boston College president William P. Leahy. In it he announced his resignation because Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was invited to be commencement speaker at the 2006 BC graduation. (Her speech is here.) Almond says he resigned from his position as adjunct professor to make a stand, a moral statement. He then engaged what he calls the "Hateocracy" - Hannity and Colmes, the AM talk shows, the conservative print publications. In other words, he got lots and lots and lots of publicity. It made him famous. The part of the book I enjoyed the most - the chapter that was written as if Almond couldn't help himself - was a wonderful essay on why Kurt Vonnegut should be taken more seriously. It was well-researched and the writing is beautiful. It is the sort of essay that you can tell has been trying to get out of Almond's cerebrum for years now. We learn on the last page of Not that You Asked that the entire book was supposed to be about Vonnegut, but that his publishers "wanted a book of essays instead." It speaks of Almond's sincerity that he would even admit it. But then it also points to his insincerity when, in a nod to Vonnegut that Kurt himself would not approve of, he shrugs 'so it goes.'

  15. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    For the record...I'm a fan of Steve Almond's writing, and; I do not like most modern essays. I'm probably one of the few readers who really can't stomach Augusten Burroughs and who finds David Sedaris to be only occasionally amusing, and nearly almost always self-aggrandizing. Now that this is out of the way, let me address this book in particular. Almond opens this book with the rather odd, and very immature little spoof/rant. Let's write letters to Oprah, trying to knock her down a peg, and then For the record...I'm a fan of Steve Almond's writing, and; I do not like most modern essays. I'm probably one of the few readers who really can't stomach Augusten Burroughs and who finds David Sedaris to be only occasionally amusing, and nearly almost always self-aggrandizing. Now that this is out of the way, let me address this book in particular. Almond opens this book with the rather odd, and very immature little spoof/rant. Let's write letters to Oprah, trying to knock her down a peg, and then follow it up with a batch of letters apologizing. Ooh, how clever. How witty! How terribly freshman! Sorry, Steve, I wrote crap like this in high school and college. Yeah, you get the bucks to have it published, but it doesn't make it unique, clever, or, well, good. I was worried, then, if the entire book was going to be this way. If I wanted dreck, I'd read Burroughs. Fortunately, I immediately began reading the "Why I Crush on Vonnegut" which hooked me in to the rest of the book. THIS is an essay! This is how an essay should be written! A lot of personal reflection about a very personal (to the writer) subject, but not about the writer himself. I felt every nuance, every pain or anger that Almond expressed. I want to go back and re-read every Vonnegut book, I want to go and knock the heads of the women on the panel with Vonnegut (I'll do something better...I will actively NOT buy their books). This essay alone kept me reading through the entire book. The rest of the book falls somewhere in between these first two essays. Anyone familiar with Almond's fiction writing knows that he writes about sex quite well, so his essays of a sexual bent are also strong. "How To Write Sex Scenes: The 12-Step Program" is both, fun and informative. "Red Sox Anti-Christ" didn't hit me particularly well. I'm not a huge baseball fan, and really, the essay wasn't 'about' anything, was it? It wasn't quite a personal reflection, it was more of an essay trying to be clever. The historical anecdotes, about growing up and being a fan of the A's was interesting, but trying to pin on the label of Red Sox Anti-Christ was just too much a of a stretch. Enjoyable essays were "How Reality TV Ate My Life," "Death by Lobster Pad Thai," and "Tesla Matters." Here Almond explores a topic, again personal and with personal reflection, as an essay should be, but not really about the essayist (I would argue that "How Reality TV Ate My Life" is more about the phoniness of "reality" TV and selling out to it in general than it is about Steve Almond's absorption in it). Of lesser interest were "Blog Love" and "Ham for Chanukah" -- two essays that I couldn't relate to and held little interest for me. The rest were decent. But I'd much rather read more fiction from this fine author.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Danny

    Steve Almond's Rants, Exploits, and Obsessions (Not That You Asked) is a collection of essays tied together only by Almond's admitted fascination with himself. I remember having certain problems with Candyfreak, another of Almond's books, but I think they were mostly in the area of "He doesn't like lime-flavored Life Savers? BUT THEY'RE AWESOME! WHAT A DOUCHE!" This time there were things I didn't like, but they were more in the area of "Is he STILL talking about baseball? Is he going to give a Steve Almond's Rants, Exploits, and Obsessions (Not That You Asked) is a collection of essays tied together only by Almond's admitted fascination with himself. I remember having certain problems with Candyfreak, another of Almond's books, but I think they were mostly in the area of "He doesn't like lime-flavored Life Savers? BUT THEY'RE AWESOME! WHAT A DOUCHE!" This time there were things I didn't like, but they were more in the area of "Is he STILL talking about baseball? Is he going to give a play-by-play of the whole freaking game?" There's a long essay on Kurt Vonnegut. Apparently Almond's pitch to the publishing house was for an entire book abou Vonnegut, but instead they wanted an essay sampler. (How about some essays about sex? And then about how you and your girlfriend/fiance/wife spawned a child? And about your dirty liberal politics? And maybe something about being Jewish?) I liked the Vonnegut stuff a lot. There's a story about an event at which Vonnegut, Joyce Carol Oates, and Jenifer Weiner sat on a panel to talk about writing. What I learned from this story: Joyce Carol Oates is an ASSHOLE. Really, she may be a book-making machine, but I don't know that I ever want to pick up one of the damn things now.  She makes Vonnegut out to be a wamongering jerk, which is about as far as you can get from what Vonnegut is, because he is (dramatic music) a MAN!  Nice. Basically the collection was touch and go, but Almond does have an easy style and is pretty funny. He also mentions ejaculation and assfucking more than many (most?) other essayists, so just be warned.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nic

    I have never liked Steve Almond, though Candyfreak is one of my favorite books, and we've only spoken once (at a Candyfreak reading where he chucked a Twin Bing bar to any audience members who asked a question. I raised my hand, asked one, and he tossed it to me like the seal I was!). I've seen him at readings (he DJ'd at Cover to Cover, an event where authors read works by other authors, and he played all songs covered by not-the-original band.) He was also at Tin House the year I went, and whi I have never liked Steve Almond, though Candyfreak is one of my favorite books, and we've only spoken once (at a Candyfreak reading where he chucked a Twin Bing bar to any audience members who asked a question. I raised my hand, asked one, and he tossed it to me like the seal I was!). I've seen him at readings (he DJ'd at Cover to Cover, an event where authors read works by other authors, and he played all songs covered by not-the-original band.) He was also at Tin House the year I went, and while I heartily enjoyed his reading, and his students adored him, I never approached him. Guess I'm just jealous. Or maybe all the heavily sexual arrested-development content of some of his work turned me off. I don't know. And I'm too cheap to hire a shrink to find out. Anyway, I have finally decided to bury my silly hatchet and embrace the man. This collection struck me as so brave, the writing a rare combination of literary and honest, that I have been won over. In fact, in savoring these nuggets (I found myself reading increasingly slowly - wanting the book to last - a high compliment) I found it elevated my own writing. Almond's voice really burrowed under my skin and I have the utmost admiration for his purpose, his prose, and his raw take on the sacrifice what becoming a fulltime, meaningful writer truly requires. This should be recommended reading for anyone writing essays or memoir. It's a bar-setter.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Almond's writing is witty and hilarious. The letters to Oprah made me cry. His thoughts on parenting would, I'm sure, be echoed by any new dad. In general, I find him a little too brash in writing about his opinions, but I suppose that's what essays are for. The book is very funny, though, and I enjoyed his commentary--particularly about reality TV. Fun read. Almond's writing is witty and hilarious. The letters to Oprah made me cry. His thoughts on parenting would, I'm sure, be echoed by any new dad. In general, I find him a little too brash in writing about his opinions, but I suppose that's what essays are for. The book is very funny, though, and I enjoyed his commentary--particularly about reality TV. Fun read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Paul Schulzetenberg

    This book consists of your standard same-ol' same-ol' narcissistic navel-gazing that you can find in any of a number of novels and bad Woody Allen movies. The frustrating thing is that Almond tries hard to put his own spin on his narcissisms and obsessions to really establish himself, but he spends too much time being self-mocking to really get to any kind of a point. There's a place for the self-referential author, such as in Ann Lamott's excellent Bird by Bird, but Almond can't quite find it. A This book consists of your standard same-ol' same-ol' narcissistic navel-gazing that you can find in any of a number of novels and bad Woody Allen movies. The frustrating thing is that Almond tries hard to put his own spin on his narcissisms and obsessions to really establish himself, but he spends too much time being self-mocking to really get to any kind of a point. There's a place for the self-referential author, such as in Ann Lamott's excellent Bird by Bird, but Almond can't quite find it. Almond has written something that's easy to pick up and read, but it left me unsatisfied. I wanted there to be some more point to these stories. As it stands, the pieces in this book seem more like the type of stories your friends tell you over a beer at the local hangout. They're fun, and they're entertaining, but they often sort of peter out rather than come to some kind of conclusion. Sure, it's interesting to hear Almond's relationship with baseball, or his single experience with hair removal, and even his flirtation with reality TV fame, but for all that he seems that he wants to moralize or preach, he isn't saying anything new. This book is probably perfect if you want something light for a plane ride, but you needn't bother seeking it out.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jackie Bouchard

    I mostly liked this. The good thing about a book of essays is that you can pass on the ones that aren't speaking to you and savor the ones that do. In general, I found his writing to be excellent - clearly the man has a love of language - but sometimes the subject matter wasn't really of interest to me. I liked the essays on Vonnegut and the 'Dear Oprah' bit was amusing. My absolute favorite essay was the one on all the ways he accidentally managed to kill his baby daughter in the first hours an I mostly liked this. The good thing about a book of essays is that you can pass on the ones that aren't speaking to you and savor the ones that do. In general, I found his writing to be excellent - clearly the man has a love of language - but sometimes the subject matter wasn't really of interest to me. I liked the essays on Vonnegut and the 'Dear Oprah' bit was amusing. My absolute favorite essay was the one on all the ways he accidentally managed to kill his baby daughter in the first hours and days of her life. LOL funny stuff. I didn't care for the entire essay on the blogger who snipes about Mr. Almond's writing. (OK, Steve - we get it, the guy indeed sounds like a total dink, but using your published author status to exact your revenge and bash him, even when you try to dress it up as something else, well, it seems ... just plain mean and petty.) I also skipped over the essay about the Red Sox. I have little patience for men's penchant for rehashing sporting events, so 40 pages on a baseball game just wasn't going to hold my interest. (I skimmed it. There were actual discussions of various "at bats.") At any rate, I liked his writing style enough (if not necessarily his personality) to want to pick up some of his other work.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Erin Eileen

    Eloquent and insightful essays with consistent literary payoff--similar to Eggers or Sedaris, but like, way funnier. This guy writes with the perfect amount of narcissistic navel-gazing that makes modern essay writing appealing and relatable to people like me (people who struggle with their own self-importance and vulnerabilities and--and you know, stuff like that). I read little bits of "10 Ways I Killed My Daughter Within the First 72 Hours of Life" out loud to my boyfriend because the descripti Eloquent and insightful essays with consistent literary payoff--similar to Eggers or Sedaris, but like, way funnier. This guy writes with the perfect amount of narcissistic navel-gazing that makes modern essay writing appealing and relatable to people like me (people who struggle with their own self-importance and vulnerabilities and--and you know, stuff like that). I read little bits of "10 Ways I Killed My Daughter Within the First 72 Hours of Life" out loud to my boyfriend because the descriptions of his newborn daughter's bodily activities---one which Almond so lovingly referred to as "The Great Hot Mustard Incident"--were just perfect. I would gladly recommend this book to any person that I like. The topics in this book span the entire gamut of human emotion and experience. A bunch of them anyway. I rate this book 4 and a half stars out of five because the political section,"The Demagogue Days" was self-indulgent. I was like "Alright c'mon". But then it got better when he went on to talk about his daughter's poos. Yes!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    I've seen a few bad reviews of this book and I don't know where they're coming from. Not That You Asked was both hilarious and insightful. The essay on Vonnegut was stellar, as was the essay about the author quitting his adjunct position at Boston College--an act of protest (but not heroism, as Almond points out)that came as an instinctual reaction after he found out \Condoleeza Rice had been invited to be the graduation speaker (shudder!) I also particularly enjoyed Almond's summary of Realit I've seen a few bad reviews of this book and I don't know where they're coming from. Not That You Asked was both hilarious and insightful. The essay on Vonnegut was stellar, as was the essay about the author quitting his adjunct position at Boston College--an act of protest (but not heroism, as Almond points out)that came as an instinctual reaction after he found out \Condoleeza Rice had been invited to be the graduation speaker (shudder!) I also particularly enjoyed Almond's summary of Reality TV: "it reflects our unrequited yearning for the authentic. Amercians are drowning in a cesspool of fake emotion . . . [b]ut we really do want to feel, even if that means indulging in the jury-rigged joy and woe of others. It's quite a racket, actually, to feel so truly moved, even as we fall further and further from the truth." I loved it all (except the Boston Red Sox essay. I just don't care enough about sports for even Steve Almond to get me reading about baseball.)

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mike Van Campen

    This is a mixed bag. Almond's essays on Vonnegut (completely dead on) and his love of the A's/role as the Red Sox Antichrist are exceptional. But much of what is included here is mostly self appreciation, albeit written with exceptional style, to remind us of how much more clever/talented he is than the rest of us. Plus, after a few essays, I began hoping that he would steer clear of sharing every detail of his sexual life/fantasies. I really think someone needs to share with him Jonathan Franze This is a mixed bag. Almond's essays on Vonnegut (completely dead on) and his love of the A's/role as the Red Sox Antichrist are exceptional. But much of what is included here is mostly self appreciation, albeit written with exceptional style, to remind us of how much more clever/talented he is than the rest of us. Plus, after a few essays, I began hoping that he would steer clear of sharing every detail of his sexual life/fantasies. I really think someone needs to share with him Jonathan Franzen's essay that touches on writing sex scenes and praises Nick Hornby for cutting out the lights at the right moment (I can't remember the tile but know it was in How to Be Alone .)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Malbadeen

    i wanted it to be 4 stars but when all is said and done I enjoyed his short stories much much more than this collection of essays. I had moments of laughter and I was swept away by a sentence here or there but all in all I felt like most of the conclusions were either too tidy or too abrupt in their conclusions. Sometimes a story was so great and funny and zipping right along, like steve and I were funning through a field of daisys laughing and smiling at each other while holding hands, my hair bl i wanted it to be 4 stars but when all is said and done I enjoyed his short stories much much more than this collection of essays. I had moments of laughter and I was swept away by a sentence here or there but all in all I felt like most of the conclusions were either too tidy or too abrupt in their conclusions. Sometimes a story was so great and funny and zipping right along, like steve and I were funning through a field of daisys laughing and smiling at each other while holding hands, my hair blowing in the breeze, his strong legs flexing with each step and then THUD he tripped on a rock and I was left standing there going "what happened? where did you go"? It's worth reading but it's the kind of book that I would loan to someone with passages or stories marked to read first so they didn't opt out all together before they got to the good ones.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I love Steve Almond. I don't know how many times this book had me laughing out loud, and I know I was so engrossed in it that I unaware of both the completion of my son's swim class one evening and soccer practice the next! Almond's tirades against beautiful writers and the Bush administration, his fears and dreams about becoming a father, his surprising role as the Red Sox anti-christ, and his love letter to Kurt Vonnegut were all engrossing and terribly amusing. And if I ever have the chance to I love Steve Almond. I don't know how many times this book had me laughing out loud, and I know I was so engrossed in it that I unaware of both the completion of my son's swim class one evening and soccer practice the next! Almond's tirades against beautiful writers and the Bush administration, his fears and dreams about becoming a father, his surprising role as the Red Sox anti-christ, and his love letter to Kurt Vonnegut were all engrossing and terribly amusing. And if I ever have the chance to meet him again (saw him promote Candyfreak a few years back), I want to tell him that I also got a flat on the highway, had rude drivers not allow me into the right lane, and also had to break my Walmart boycott because it was the only place in the middle of nowhere that I could buy a new tire! Who knew?!!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kat Leache

    I'm really surprised that Steve Almond hasn't gotten a little more attention, though one of his last books, Candyfreak, was a NYT bestseller, so maybe I just didn't notice when he became "big." But at any rate, I think his strength is essay-writing, though he started out as a short story writer. I read My Life In Heavy Metal a long time ago, and though I liked it, it didn't make an impact on me. When I read the title story from The Evil B B Chow, I really fell for him. But in rereading B B Chow I'm really surprised that Steve Almond hasn't gotten a little more attention, though one of his last books, Candyfreak, was a NYT bestseller, so maybe I just didn't notice when he became "big." But at any rate, I think his strength is essay-writing, though he started out as a short story writer. I read My Life In Heavy Metal a long time ago, and though I liked it, it didn't make an impact on me. When I read the title story from The Evil B B Chow, I really fell for him. But in rereading B B Chow after Not That You Asked (all essays) I realize how much better he is writing as himself. Awesomely rude and funny, but with a really wonderful grasp of language--I really think highly of him as a writer, and I think I'll read Candyfreak next, if for no other reason than it's his only other published work of non-fiction as far as I know. Quality light reading! I highly recommend!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    I had high hopes for this book as another funny read and it began that way. This guy rants and can be very funny BUT his chapter on Kurt Vonnegut almost made me put a fork in my eye. It may as well have been a whole separate work by him. Some chapters are worth reading and others are worth skipping so I'm not in love with this book and will be glad when I'm done. Usually I feel guilty about skipping around from chapter to chapter...not this time. The health of my eyes depends on it. Add on: Okay I had high hopes for this book as another funny read and it began that way. This guy rants and can be very funny BUT his chapter on Kurt Vonnegut almost made me put a fork in my eye. It may as well have been a whole separate work by him. Some chapters are worth reading and others are worth skipping so I'm not in love with this book and will be glad when I'm done. Usually I feel guilty about skipping around from chapter to chapter...not this time. The health of my eyes depends on it. Add on: Okay so I lied-- I put this book down completely and left it without looking back. He is not as funny as he thinks. His letters to Oprah had me cautiously optimistic but the whole insulting chick-lit authors and again, the Kurt Vonnegut neverending chapter made me think he was an angry post office worker posing as a funny guy. It was aggravating.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alicia

    This book made me laugh so much. DO NOT READ THIS BOOK WHILE DRINKING LIQUIDS!! They will be all over you. But if books have ratings, this one would probably be PG-13 or maybe even R. There is a pretty long segment about when he goes through puberty, and another one about several of his exploits. Those areas are more like "R". But then there are some total PG areas like about how much he hates the Red Sox and then one about how he has a man crush on Kurt Vonnegut. But my ALL time favorite part wa This book made me laugh so much. DO NOT READ THIS BOOK WHILE DRINKING LIQUIDS!! They will be all over you. But if books have ratings, this one would probably be PG-13 or maybe even R. There is a pretty long segment about when he goes through puberty, and another one about several of his exploits. Those areas are more like "R". But then there are some total PG areas like about how much he hates the Red Sox and then one about how he has a man crush on Kurt Vonnegut. But my ALL time favorite part was how he talks about how he killed his daughter 12 different ways. (He didn't really kill her, of course) I read that part right before I had my baby, and I think I need to go back and read it again. I think I would sympathize a lot more now. If you don't mind reading about Vonnegut and want to laugh out loud, DEF need to read this one

  29. 4 out of 5

    kasia

    This is actually a 4.5 star book, but I'm erring on the plus side, because it's been a long time since I enjoyed a book as much as I did this one. It touches on pretty much all the things I love and am interested in (literature, sports, food, sex, politics, self-discovery) in a thoughtful, and fantastically well-written way. The highlights, for me, were a fantastic essay on Vonnegut and Almond's appreciation for him, and a laugh-so-hard-you-cry piece called "10 Ways I Killed My Daughter Within t This is actually a 4.5 star book, but I'm erring on the plus side, because it's been a long time since I enjoyed a book as much as I did this one. It touches on pretty much all the things I love and am interested in (literature, sports, food, sex, politics, self-discovery) in a thoughtful, and fantastically well-written way. The highlights, for me, were a fantastic essay on Vonnegut and Almond's appreciation for him, and a laugh-so-hard-you-cry piece called "10 Ways I Killed My Daughter Within the First 72 Hours of Life." But overall, it's just a marvelous, intelligent, and very funny collection. This is the book Michael Chabon wanted to write when he penned Manhood for Amateurs. I want to buy a copy for everyone I know. Extended blog review.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    3 and a half, really. maybe four. maybe i'll come back and boost it up a star. still reflecting. There were so many actual, honest to god l.o.l moments that I had with this book. I was smiling like a weirdo on the treadmill. i loved the sexy bits, and i loved the baseball chapter that finally explains fandom to me, just a little bit. he reminds me of david rakoff in some ways. diction is on point. clearly bitter undertones. but i know i've never rated anything david rakoff has ever written under 3 and a half, really. maybe four. maybe i'll come back and boost it up a star. still reflecting. There were so many actual, honest to god l.o.l moments that I had with this book. I was smiling like a weirdo on the treadmill. i loved the sexy bits, and i loved the baseball chapter that finally explains fandom to me, just a little bit. he reminds me of david rakoff in some ways. diction is on point. clearly bitter undertones. but i know i've never rated anything david rakoff has ever written under 4 stars. maybe rakoff has bitter undertones where steve almond could more accurately be described as having bitter overtones. but then his stuff about vonnegut was so hopeful. so yeah, i'll probably just come back when i'm feeling more decisive and round up to 4 stars. definitely wanna read more almond.

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