MY LIFE IN HEAVY METAL

Steve Almond, Author . Grove $23 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1630-7

This collection of 12 short stories is populated by some interesting characters in problematic situations—and some not-so-interesting ones in situations familiar enough to be trite. The title story is an example of the latter, with its lackluster pop music critic caught in bed with a new conquest by his college lover. More successful is "Among the Ik," in which aging Professor Rodgers, uneasy with his adult children, recalls a bizarre experience from his early life in academia. Telling about it tests his coming to terms with widowhood; even a second reading of this poignant story is rewarding. "Geek Player, Love Slayer" is an update on the old-fashioned office romance and features a female reporter with a raunchy vocabulary that belies her 33 years. She engages in "lurid banter with Computer Boy" Lance, who can talk to machines. "How to Love a Republican" is thoroughly entertaining, with a James Carvill wannabe meeting his young Mary Matalin when they are in New Hampshire doing "issue work." The aftermath of the election dooms the romance, but the story is a humorous success. The narrator of "The Body in Extremis" is a 34-year-old composition teacher (Almond teaches creative writing at Boston College and Emerson College), who has an "essential problem": "Sexual ideation dominated my thoughts," he declares. This final story casts a narcissistic shadow over the preceding fiction, but there's enough intelligence, angst and humor woven through the collection to please the young audience at which it is aimed. Agent, Amy Williams of ICM. (Apr.)

Forecast:This collection has a high entertainment quotient, as signaled by the title, previous publication of some of the stories in Playboy and Zoetrope, and Almond's smooth-flowing prose. Expect a few extra browser hits.

Reviewed on: 02/18/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-8021-4013-5
Open Ebook - 978-1-322-35686-0
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-09-944362-9
Open Ebook - 224 pages - 978-1-55584-789-0
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