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In Defense of Male Clutter

A conversation with Steve Almond, author of the Life Lessons essay.

By Steve Almond
Colored pencils in a white binNato Welton

Real Simple’s Noelle Howey spoke with Steve Almond, author of the Life Lessons essay “In Defense of Male Clutter” (June 2009), about Accumulated Male Junk (AMJ), how his wife really feels about it, and his oh-so-glamorous writing process.

 Real Simple: What inspired you to write this essay?
 Steve Almond: Uh, my wife’s contempt? This is one of the few areas where I can’t quite explain myself to her. Why do I need all this...stuff. And the more I thought about it, the more it became clear to me that my AMJ had deep, neurotic roots. That’s true, I think, of anything you keep around for a long time.

 RS: Did this essay prompt your wife to feel differently about your AMJ?
 SA: Sort of. I mean, my wife isn’t exactly shining up that rusty bread box at this point. But I think she appreciates that I took the time to explain, in a more coherent way, why my office looks like a junk shop. Let’s say it like this: At least now the real issues are out there. It’s not just an argument about “keeping the house neat.”

 RS: You wrote for Real Simple last year about trying to spend no money for a week. Did you get any reaction to the piece? And how’s that new frugality panning out these days?
 SA: The reactions were mostly nice. Nobody threw anything. A number of women expressed relief that we weren’t married. As for the “new frugality,” I’m feeling sort of unhappily vindicated. Because guys like me are always preparing for the worst financially, and, well, things have turned that way. So my wife and I are both cutting back on spending a great deal. Everyone is, I expect.

 RS: Turning to your writing itself, can you tell me what your process is like?
 SA: Yikes! I generally sit around in my underwear and waste time for several hours. Then, when I feel guilty enough, I bang out a bunch of words. Then I read those over and they usually suck, so I try to go back and “desuckify” them (that’s a technical term). Then my computer crashes. It’s all quite glamorous.

 RS: What are you reading these days?
 SA: Diana Joseph has a great book of essays called I’m Sorry You Feel That Way. Also, the novel The Dart League King, by Keith Lee Morris. Both brutally funny and sad.

 RS: Tell us about your latest book and any other writing projects you have underway.
 SA: The latest book is a bunch of essays about all the AMJ in my head. That includes worshipping Kurt Vonnegut, getting kidnapped by a reality-TV crew, hating the Boston Red Sox and Sean Hannity, and surviving mind-boggling adolescent sexual humiliation. People either like it a lot or send me angry letters. The next book is related to those 4,123 CDs in my basement. It’s about being a crazed music fan. The good news is: It’s short. The better news is: It will come with a free CD!

To purchase Steve Almond’s latest book, (Not That You Asked), click here.

 
Read More About:Life Strategies

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