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(Not That You Asked): Rants, Exploits, and Obsessions Paperback – July 8, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

(Not that You Asked): Rants, Exploits, and Obsessions is an Amazon Significant Seven selection for October 2007

An Exclusive Essay from Author Steve Almond

Steve Almond is obsessed. He first offered the world a peek into his fixations in My Life in Heavy Metal, a collection of short stories throbbing with hookups, drunken kisses, failed passes, souring relationships, and, naturally, heavy metal. But Almond forever chewed the hard chocolate shell from his creamy inner obsessive with 2004's Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America--a sort of On the Road for the sugar set, documenting an epic journey through America's confectionary highways and backroads. Almond is back with (Not that You Asked): Rants, Exploits, and Obsessions, a collection of autobiographical pieces covering topics as diverse as Oprah Winfrey, Kurt Vonnegut, sexual failure, and the many varieties of shame. We asked Almond just what it is about obsession that drives his work, as well is its intrinsic value in all art--low and high. --Jon Foro

The Obsession Engine
Why House of Rock with Bret Michaels could be your next novel. Or not.

By Steve Almond

A close friend of mine – who may or may not be my wife – recently fell in love with the VH-1 reality series House of Rock. For those of you who are not hip to its charms, HoR stars Bret Michaels, the former lead singer of Poison, and a gaggle of women vying to become his soul mate. I hope you will not be shocked to learn that several of these potential soul mates are strippers. Nor do all of them appear to be virgins.

My friend insists that her interest in the program is purely anthropological. But I happen to know that she spent a good portion of her adolescence listening to Eighties hair metal bands and dreaming about bedding dudes like Bret Michaels and even working, briefly, as a waitress in a topless bar. She comes by her obsession naturally, is my point.

The longer I read and write, the more I come to view obsession as the essential engine of literature. I am not suggesting that my wife, er, friend should write a novel about House of Rock. (The series is, by her own description, a kind of pulp novel already--histrionic, predictable, crushingly squalid.) What I’m suggesting is that her allegiance to the program identifies essential fears and desires within her, ones which embarrass her quite robustly and therefore belong in the novel she hopes to write.

To take this a step further: I’m not interested in writing that isn’t obsessive. Who is? We’re all drama queens in the end. We all come to stories with two basic questions: Who do I care about? And What do they care about? As long as our hero, or heroine, cares deeply about something (i.e. is obsessed), and as long as they’re willing to tell us their own twisted version of the truth, we’ll come along for the ride.

Don’t believe me? Let me call to the stand my star witness, Humbert Humbert. Read more...

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

This collection of essays on everything from Oprah's Book Club to the joy of being a new father displays all the qualities that have made Almond's short stories (The Evil B.B. Chow) and nonfiction (Candyfreak) entertaining. The wicked humor of Dear Oprah features an in-your-face attack on the Savior of Publishing and her book club, followed by equally obsequious apologies, including a gift of trust to her of his baby daughter. A section titled About My Sexual Failure (Not That You Asked) offers brutally honest dissections of his sexual obsessions as well as those of past girlfriends, including chest waxing, fake breasts and masturbating in the family pool. Demagogue Days is a hilarious look at Almond's experience with Fox News that displays an abiding disgust at current arbiters of cultural and political life in America as well as an enduring empathy for the underdog. But best of all is a beautiful and angry essay on The Failed Prophecy of Kurt Vonnegut (and How It Saved My Life), a look at Vonnegut's career-long concern over whether mankind would survive its own despicable conduct that serves as a summation of Almond's personal and literary ethos. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (July 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812977599
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812977592
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #875,711 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Here's how much I enjoyed "(Not That You Asked)":

The publisher sent me a free advance softcover proof last month, and I still bought a new hardcover the day it was officially released. If you knew how frugal (read: cheap) I am, you'd understand how remarkable this is.

Why shell out my hard-earned for a book I've already read and gotten for free? Because I wanted to send Random House the message that Steve Almond is a huge talent, the real deal, and they better keep publishing him.

So "enjoyed" is kind of a weak verb.

I love this book, is what I'm saying.

I love that Almond takes aim at the easy targets -- Oprah, Fox News, Condi, Reality TV -- in fresh, hilarious ways, but places himself in the crosshairs more than anyone. I love that his long fanboy tribute to Kurt Vonnegut, "Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt," nails exactly why *I've* "crush[ed] on Kurt Vonnegut" for more than half of my life.

I love that no matter what subject he's tackling -- fake breasts, masturbation, unplanned fatherhood, body waxing, blog wars -- Almond surprises and delights and makes me think while I'm laughing and laugh while I'm thinking.

Clearly I've lost all objectivity with this book. Let me at least attempt to inject a little balance by enlisting the help of four friends. The quotations below are from people I either loaned the book to or bought the book for. None of them actually know I'm quoting them on Amazon, but I don't think they'll mind (not that I asked).

Here are their actual reactions:

Martha (via e-mail, two days after I loaned her my advance copy): "Steve Almond is my new favorite author. Loved it. Love LOVE LOVE LOVED it. Can't wait to buy a copy. Wonderful recommendation.
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Format: Hardcover
Not That You Asked is the third book I've read by Steve Almond, and I would have to say that so far, this is my favorite. As with all of Almond's previous work, Not That You Asked has the all of the sharp wit, cutting insight,irreverance,sex,laugh-out-loud humor and great storytelling that Almond's fans would expect, but this book delivers more... it delivers HIM! The book offers a naked, unflinching, honest, and truely human view into Almond himself. Especially funny and touching are the stories of his childhood and adolecence, which are full of all of all of the secret, awkward insecurities, fears, and humiliations that most of us experienced at that age (as well as a few I'm glad that I didnt), but never discussed with anyone. Instead of hiding them, Almond lays them out for all to see. We watch as Almond progresses from being a teenager full of secret doubts, fears, and neurosies, to becoming an adult full of secret doubts, fears, and neurosies...just like most of us. It is brutally human and real, and at the same time, VERY funny.
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Format: Hardcover
A thoroughly enjoyable, thoughtful read on a wide range of topics, from Steve's fears about how ineffective he might be as a new parent to the mistreatment of literary lion Kurt Vonnegut by fellow writers Joyce Carol Oates and Jennifer Weiner during a literary panel discussion. The three essays on Vonnegut themselves make this collection worth the price of admission. Steve is incredibly articulate about why he idolizes the author. Like other reviewers here have noted, it inspired me to go back and re-read some of the Vonnegut books I had sitting on my shelves. But Steve also humanizes the iconic figure, not shying away from noting how Vonnegut might have fallen away from some of his own ideals later in life.

I live in Boston and remember all the headlines of when Steve resigned from Boston College to protest Condi Rice speaking there. I remember arch conservative Gerry Callahan of the sports station WEEI calling Steve a wingnut. It was great to hear Steve's side of the entire mess in another essay here, and he offers a fairly damning portrayal of the idiocy of cable political talk shows such as Hannity & Colmes.

I was often reading this in my living room, with my wife and kids nearby, and they kept asking me what was making me laugh so hard, so I had to read a number of passages out loud (or at least the G-rated ones, my kids are in elementary school) for their sake. They got a good chuckle out of a number of sections, such as Steve's misuse of a bulb syringe when he's trying to clear mucus from his baby's nose. ("Because of a basic misunderstanding of physics, and specifically the concept of suction, I failed to deflate the bulb before insertion. Instead, I blow air UP the baby's nose.") Of course, then he is sure he's given his poor little newborn some sort of aneurysm.
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Format: Hardcover
Despite the fact that this outstanding collection of essays is being primarily promoted as a racy, sexy read, 'Not that You Asked' is a much more profound work, and I believe that many readers will love it. You will indeed laugh -- out loud, really hard -- but you will also be moved and provoked to think and consider important questions and values. The 'spine' of this book is comprised of Almond's honesty and his cracklingly clever take on life; that is, his life. This is what makes 'Not that You asked' so compelling to me -- Almond holds nothing back and reveals to readers not only his adventures and joys, but also his times of doubt and uncertainty. I feel this book hits on many universal struggles; for writers, families, spouses and families, and what America is and does as a country and a society. All the while, Almond's hilarious style keeps the read fresh and fascinating. The essays are extremely varied in topic but they all fit together marvelously and there's a special flavor to the collection, a
really fine flavor. This is a must-read, folks. Enjoy it!
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