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Smoking With Steve Almond

Interview by Gay Degani (Read the Story) June 25, 2013

Steve Almond

art by Alexander C. Kafka

Your story, “Kim Kardashian Considers Her Insomnia,” suggests that “Kim” may not be comfortable in the world she and pop culture have created for her. What made you decide to cast her in your story?

I’m fascinated by these women who become pop culture icons because of their beauty and sexuality. It’s like they want to not have an internal life. But of course they do, and it makes me want to guess at what’s happening inside them.

“She thought about Newet, the Sky Goddess, who lay across the top of the universe and suckled a million stars.Sometimes, in paintings, Newet was a giant sow.” The imagery here is beautiful and the transition to “Kim’s mother” provokes thought—and not necessarily positive thought. You don’t spare Kim or her mother. When you are writing fiction about real people, how do you decide where to draw the line?

I’m interested in what Kim Kardashian might actually be like, what’s beneath her veneer. She is this weird sort of Goddess figure, so I was really just playing with that. I mean no ill will toward her or her mother. It’s more an effort to understand them.

We see Kim questioning herself and her place in the world.She realizes she’s in the spotlight, always judged, yet in the end, you write, “She didn’t feel beautiful in these moments, but she knew she was.” What does this ending mean to you? What do you hope it means to the reader?

Honestly, it’s up to the reader. I can say what I intended—which is something like: women who are so utterly reliant on their beauty can never escape the fact of it—but once it’s on the page, it’s the reader’s story.

You’re always looking for new ways to do things. What’s new now for you?

Well, we’re just about to have a third child. That’s the big news. And I’m slugging away at a dying novel. That’s pretty old news, I’m afraid. But that’s often how it is for me.

About the Author

Steve Almond is the author of the story collections My Life in Heavy Metal and The Evil B.B. Chow, the novel Which Brings Me to You (with Julianna Baggott), and the non-fiction books Candyfreak and (Not That You Asked). His most recent book, Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life, came out in spring 2010. He is also, crazily, self-publishing books. This Wont Take But a Minute, Honey is composed of 30 very brief stories, and 30 very brief essays on the psychology and practice of writing. Letters from People Who Hate Me is just plumb crazy. Both are available at readings. In 2011, Lookout Press will publish his story collection God Bless America.

About the Interviewer

Gay Degani has been nominated here and there for Pushcart consideration, Best Small Fictions, and a few various and sundry honors including the 11th Glass Woman Prize. She is the author of a full-length collection of short stories, Rattle of Want (Pure Slush Press, 2015) and a suspense novel, What Came Before (Truth Serum Press, 2016). Her micro “Abbreviated Glossary” appears in the anthology New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fictionedited by James Thomas and Robert Scotellaro. She occasionally blogs at Words in Placeand is currently working on another novel of suspense.

About the Artist

Alexander C. Kafka is a journalist, photographer, and composer in Bethesda, Maryland. He created the cover image for Lost Addresses: New and Selected Poems by Diann Blakely (Salmon Poetry, 2017). His work has also been published at All Things Fashion DC, BuzzFeed, Fast Company, Juked, Vice, The Washington Post, The Writing Disorder, and many other periodicals. He has been on the documentation team for the Washington Folk Festival at Glen Echo and is a contributing concert photographer for DMNDR. Kafka studied fine-art figure photography with Missy Loewe at the Washington School of Photography and portrait photography with Sora DeVore at Glen Echo Photoworks.

This interview appeared in Issue Forty of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Forty

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