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My Life in Heavy Metal: Stories
by Steve Almond
ISBN 0802116302 / 9780802116307 / 0-8021-1630-2
Publisher Grove Press
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In his smart and self-assured debut, My Life in Heavy Metal, Steve Almond breathes fresh life into the oft-explored territory of young love and longing. The 12 stories in this pulsating collection are populated with hookups, drunken kisses, failed passes, and souring relationships. And though it's an aggressively sexual affair (when it comes to getting it on in the bedroom--or on the bathroom sink, for that matter--Almond doesn't believe in fading to black), at its core it's a collection with heart. His characters stumble unrehearsed through the choreography of modern love, wearing their sloppy passions on their rumpled sleeves, aching to connect.
The memorable title story introduces David, an El Paso music critic on the "late-eighties hair bands" circuit who cheats on his longtime college girlfriend with an unassuming YMCA lifeguard. "Because we were a morning paper, I had to bang out my copy by midnight. I operated on a template involving an initial bad pun, a lengthy playlist--adjective, adjective, song title--and a description of the lead singer's hair." Almond hilariously captures the flirty, stylized banter and drinks-after-work breeziness of office life in "Geek Player, Love Slayer." He spins this bittersweet story from a female, first-person perspective as a thirtysomething reporter at an alternative weekly finds an unlikely obsession in the oddly alluring Lance, the paper's overconfident systems administrator ("How did Computer Guy become the Lifeguard of the decade?"). In another standout story, "How to Love a Republican," a doomed cross-party affair plays out against the 2000 presidential election.
Readers should take note of this solid debut and stay on the lookout for more from Almond--he's a sharp and surprisingly sensitive writer with plenty of stories to tell. --Brad Thomas Parsons [via]