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My Life in Heavy Metal Paperback – March 11, 2003

4.3 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 205 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (March 11, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780802140135
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802140135
  • ASIN: 0802140130
  • Product Dimensions: 4.5 x 0.6 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #71,744 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on March 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
My Life in Heavy Metal is a wonderful first book of short stories, so funny in places that it is easy to miss what is serious, disturbing and funny about it. It is a tremendously bawdy book, and its humor--for instance when the narrator of "How to Love a Republican" speculates on why Republican men shun cunnilingus--is wild and bawdy. But the humor in these pieces is more often than not a sad humor, its narrators essentially unforgiving of themselves. More often than not, Almond seems to suggest, sex is the hard place where the ego splinters and fragments and after which the ego rejoins, battered but tragically reinforced.
The stories vary in tone. "Geek Player, Love Slayer" is one of two or three stories that essentially borrow their structure from romantic comedies. In deed, one could imagine some smart producer optioning them. The short shorts in this collection--"Moscow" and "The Law of Honey"--are lyrical celebrations of the force of desire and the goodness of desire. These are brief lyrics that celebrate the pursuit and not consummation as part of our noblest aspirations. Almond is attracted to an earthy dream of eastern Europe that we might get from the poems of Simic or Milosz as a sort of pure imaginative territory of smoked meat, pickled fish, and cabbage, a smoke-filled alternative to the disembodied health of snowboarders and their ilk. "The Last Single Days of Don Victor Potapenko" has some of the mouthy chutzpah of Babel's Jewish gangster stories like "How It Was Done In Kiev."
Almond's natural story telling terrain is the culture of young, intensely ambitious and narcissistic educated professionals. Ambition, narcissism: how much of America does that cover?
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Steve Almond is one of my favorite writers, and his short stories are mini-masterpieces. Steve captures the agonies and ecstasies of the human condition with precise language and wit. I look forward to more of his stories.
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Format: Hardcover
The words used by reviewers and readers were stunning, dynamic, monumental, remarkable debut......I found the book to be good, but NOT as great as other short story authors debuts. I was expecting something much better, especially after reviews from when he was here last spring. For a book that was supposed to be very erotic, I found the sex in it very selfish. I also found the men, shallow, gasping for love, gasping for intimacy, but very underdeveloped. Psychologically I wanted to know why each character lost the girl in the end. This is probabally the issue of the author, but I'd rather dive into the characters than the problems the author has with relationships.
The strength of this book is the dialog and poetic prose, which were very very strong----actually delightful. The author should beef up his characters just a bit to give them real individualism, and then this book would be stunning, etc.
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This is a collection of exceptionally honest stories that never shy away from the truths of lust and love and the fine lines that separate them.
Almond's prose is sharp, elegant, and often incredibly funny, but never glib. "Geek Player Love Slayer" is a great example of this: the narrator's voice is witty, wired, and sexy, but it's still a story about love, no matter how you slice it, with an ending that will totally whack you upside the heart.
If you're squeamish about sex, you might have trouble with some of the stories in this collection -- Almond doesn't beat around the bush...when it comes to his descriptions of the sensual. But it's not gratuitous; these are stories that truly drill down into what drives desire, what we're all searching for, and the sometimes misguided ways we go about getting it.
I highly recommend this book, especially to people who are tired of "careful' short stories that sacrifice passion to subtlety for its own sake.
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Format: Hardcover
The publisher should advise the reader to take these stories one at a time. Blow through it, and you'll miss the micro details, the nuances of language, the zoom lens observations that remind you of why you love reading in the first place.
Yes, there's sex here. And if that turns you off, by all means take a pass. But if you love the idea of small moments made large with words utterly original, yet never contrived or self-conscious, check it out. My Life in Heavy Metal is rich with jewels
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I am not really sure what my expectations were but for some reason this collection of stories did not live up to its promise. They're okay stories, not particular innovative or inspiring, good for a quick read in the airport, waiting for your flight, or perhaps in a long queue at the check-out. The collection promises stories of love and longing, and most of the stories do have that theme, yet I couldn't help think of the many, many collections of stories which have done a much better job at this theme. What I do agree with though - in fact another reviewer (who gave the collection three stars also pointed this out) is that the author has a wonderful way with dialogue and words. He is definitely a smart writer. Is that enough? No, not really.
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