His latest project involves literary erotica, but don’t assume Boston-based author Steve Almond is obsessed with the naughty bits of sex.
“Your goal as a writer is to write about characters who are in psychologically and emotionally dangerous terrain,” said Almond, who arrives in Portland Saturday to deliver a public talk at Space Gallery called “If Sex Sells, I’m Buying” and two writing workshops at the University of Southern Maine.
“In my experience, this almost always happens when you’re in a sexual setting,” he continued. “Even one-night stands are very psychologically and emotionally dangerous situations. My interest is not just in characters that are physically naked. Sex is not just dirty and a turn-on. It’s also an incredibly vulnerable experience.”
Almond, whose works include The New York Times bestseller “Candyfreak,” “God Bless America” and “Letters from People Who Hate Me,” recently devoted his creative energies to producing a series of six tiny books unified by their sexually explicit content. The self-published series is called “Writs of Passion,” and when the covers are put together, they form a collage depicting a pink- and red-tinted photo of an orgy.
All the short stories and essays included in the books have appeared previously in publications such as Playboy, Tin House and Best American Erotica.
“My interest in making these little books is to do what I think is cool as an artist,” Almond said. “The little book is just pleasing. I don’t know if it’s because we’re all carrying around iPhones.”
Almond was inspired to undertake the book project when he was walking through an airport in Alaska. There, he came across a religious book called “The Ultimate Question,” which measured roughly 3 inches by 4 inches. So he decided to create his own books of the same size.
“It just fit in my hand so beautifully,” Almond said.
Almond also borrowed a thematic page from the religious text in the final volume of the series, which includes the short story “Jesus Loves You.” The piece looks at Christ as a physical and sexual being.
“Some of (the stories) would be deemed offensive on many levels,” he admits.
Characters in the books run the gamut from gay and straight to male and female.
Almond’s appearances in Portland will mark the first time the tiny books will have been made available to the public. They are not sold in stores, and can only be purchased directly from Almond. The books sell for $5 each; the whole set sells for $20.
“If you think this would be a cool Valentine’s gift, get ‘em now,” Almond said of the limited edition books. “I will let people order them from me until Valentine’s Day. But if there’s only 100 sets of these floating around the world, that’s OK, and that’s kind of beautiful. I like not having them available everywhere, because this is just between us.”
While the books are erotic, Almond doesn’t consider them to be pornographic, saying “pornography is like Olympic athletes having sex. But that’s not real sex. Real sex is this incredibly fraught experience.”
You can hear Almond read from the books and talk about the role of sex in literature during his appearance at Space.
Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: