Almond, Steve 1967(?)–

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Almond, Steve 1967(?)–

(Steven Almond)

PERSONAL: Born c. 1967; son of Rick (a psychiatrist) and Barbara (a psychiatrist) Almond. Education: Wesleyan University, B.A., 1988; University of North Carolina at Greensboro, M.F.A.

ADDRESSES: Home—26 Dartmouth St., Somerville, MA 02145. Office—Boston College, 140 Commonwealth Ave., Chestnut Hill, MA 02467. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, P.O. Box 2225, Chapel Hill, NC 27515-2225. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Newspaper reporter, El Paso, TX, and Miami, FL; Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA, creative writing instructor; WBUR (National Public Radio station), Boston, MA, correspondent.

AWARDS, HONORS: Pushcart Prize, 2002, for story "The Pass"; Alex Award, Young Adult Library Services Association, 2005, for Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America.

WRITINGS:

My Life in Heavy Metal (short stories), Grove (New York, NY), 2002.

Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America (nonfiction), Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), 2004.

The Evil B.B. Chow and Other Stories, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), 2005.

(With Julianna Baggott) Which Brings Me to You: A Novel in Confessions, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), 2006.

Contributor to anthologies, including The Pushcart Prize and The Best American Erotica. Contributor to literary journals and other periodicals, including Ploughshares, Harvard Review, Playboy, Southern Review, Antioch Review, and New England Review.

SIDELIGHTS: Steve Almond's first book, My Life in Heavy Metal, established him as a talented writer of short stories and won him a devoted readership. In the collection, Almond explores his fascination with sex, contemporary life, and the connections people make or fail to make with one another in their quest for self-fulfillment. Reviewers commented on Almond's fresh approach to writing about sex, an approach that transcends the physical. A Kirkus Reviews critic characterized the collection as "fourteen delightful debut stories more often than not about man's powerlessness in the face of feminine beauty." The title story concerns a newspaper music critic more concerned with catching the latest stadium concert than living up to the obligations of adulthood. When his infidelity is discovered by his girlfriend, he considers that their problem is an inequity in their feelings toward each other: "I didn't love her as she loved me. What other sin is there, finally?" he contemplates. In "Geek Player, Love Slayer," a reporter in her thirties seeks the approval of a fellow reporter, a situation that prevents her from giving in to her lust for another coworker, one who is known as a computer nerd. At an office party, she gives in to her desires, while the more esteemed reporter regards her with contempt. However, "the story resolves into something else," wrote Claire Dederer in the New York Times Book Review, something more than an office satire; it is "a quiet romance that's surprisingly satisfying."

The story "How to Love a Republican" turns the 2000 presidential campaign into satire when Billy, a Democrat, meets Darcy, a Republican, while campaigning for the New Hampshire primary. Darcy is campaigning for John McCain, and he for Al Gore, who, writes Almond, "was on CNN, imitating someone made of flesh." Billy and Darcy's political differences call to mind those between real-life pundits James Carville and Mary Matalin, and the narrator ascertains that their political differences even carry over to their sexual practices. It is a story in which "neither the two major candidates nor the media that cover the election are beyond the narrator's—or the author's—reproach," wrote Jules Ver-done in the Boston Globe.

Numerous critics voiced their appreciation of Almond's language, and his eye for contemporary culture. Dederer noted that Almond "writes with a loose, anthropological humor," and that "his stories take off when he embeds the sexy stuff in a specific context, when he looks beyond the bedroom at the world around him." Almond is "an expert eavesdropper," wrote Verdone, whose characters possess "discrete, authentic voices." Mark Rozzo, writing in the Los Angeles Times claimed that Almond's characters use "their sexual curiosity like antennae probing alien landscapes." Eric Miles Williamson of the Houston Chronicle stated that "Almond is rhapsodic without being false, without relying on stereotypes…. His work is musky and lustily comic, heady without being sterile, coarse without being puerile." More praise for his language came from a reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle, who wrote that "Almond's language is rendered in precise strokes, void of bland modernist generalities, with metaphors so original and spot-on that they read like epiphanies."

Almond reached a broader audience with his second book, Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America, which combined his personal reflections with a history of candy and a description of his travels around America to visit various candy landmarks. His memories and descriptions of various sweet confections are rendered "in the kind of lusty vocabulary usually reserved for romance novels," according to Debby Waldman in People.

Candyfreak had its genesis in a professional slump Almond experienced after publishing My Life in Heavy Metal. Depressed, he began eating a great deal of candy, and he recalled the ways candy had soothed him as a child. He began visiting candy factories while working on an article on the candy heritage of Boston; before long, he was flying to obscure locations around America to visit regional candy manufacturers and taste their unique offerings. What began as a straightforward history evolved into a personal odyssey. "I shook myself down and really let myself think about the cogent memories of my youth, and so many of them radiated around candy," Joan Anderman quoted him as saying in the Boston Globe. "My relationship to my dad and my own loneliness and making candy a kind of companion. I love my family and they know it, but there was this unhappiness, and one of my responses was to latch myself on to candy." Library Journal reviewer John Charles recommended Candyfreak as a book touched by an "amusingly tart sense of humor."

Almond again showed his talent for short stories in his third publication, The Evil B.B. Chow and Other Stories. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called this book a "sexy, fast-paced second collection" that is distinguished by the author's "easy, natural storytelling." The subjects include a writing instructor who is seduced by a group of students during his office hour, a blind date, and an account of a love that involves a prosthetic eye. Reviewing the stories for Booklist, Donna Seaman found them to be "just as irreverent, audacious, and amusing" as those in Almond's first collection, yet "more diverse … more sardonic and affecting."

Almond teamed with author Julianna Baggott to create Which Brings Me to You: A Novel in Confessions, a novel about two would-be lovers who, after one passionate encounter in a coat room, decide that before becoming involved any further, they will detail their romantic pasts in a series of letters. Entertainment Weekly contributor Jennifer Armstrong called it a successful blend "of sweet and sour, of heart-welling romance and smart-ass banter." Pope Brock, reviewing the book for People, found that Almond and Baggott sometimes overreach with their writing style, but concluded that in the end, the collaboration has "cumulative power" in its portrayal of failed relationships and their survivors.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Almond, Steve, Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), 2004.

Almond, Steve, My Life in Heavy Metal, Grove (New York, NY), 2002.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, February 15, 2004, Mark Knoblauch, review of Candyfreak, p. 1007; February 15, 2005, Donna Seaman, review of The Evil B.B. Chow and Other Stories, p. 1058; April 1, 2006, Debi Lewis, review of Which Brings Me to You: A Novel in Confessions, p. 16.

Boston Globe, April 9, 2002, Jules Verdone, review of My Life in Heavy Metal, p. E2; July 13, 2004, Joan Anderman, "Author Steve Almond's Love Affair with All Things Candy Gets Personal."

Candy Industry, July, 2004, review of Candyfreak, p. 98.

El Paso Times, May 5, 2002, Kate Gannon, "Naked Honesty."

Entertainment Weekly, April 15, 2005, Nancy Miller, review of The Evil B.B. Chow and Other Stories, p. 87; April 28, 2006, Jennifer Armstrong, review of Which Brings Me to You, p. 141.

Houston Chronicle, May 17, 2002, Eric Miles Williamson, "Debut Collection with No Holds Barred."

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2002, review of My Life in Heavy Metal, p. 62; January 15, 2004, review of Candyfreak, p. 65; January 15, 2005, review of The Evil B.B. Chow and Other Stories, p. 63; February 15, 2006, review of Which Brings Me to You, p. 143.

Library Bookwatch, September, 2004, review of Candyfreak.

Library Journal, February 15, 2004, John Charles, review of Candyfreak, p. 154; March 1, 2006, Beth Gibbs, review of Which Brings Me to You, p. 76.

Los Angeles Times, April 28, 2002, Mark Rozzo, review of My Life in Heavy Metal.

New York Times Book Review, April 28, 2002, Claire Dederer, review of My Life in Heavy Metal, p. 6.

People, May 3, 2004, Debby Waldman, review of Candyfreak, p. 45; May 22, 2006, review of Which Brings Me to You, p. 53.

Publishers Weekly, February 18, 2002, review of My Life in Heavy Metal, p. 70; January 26, 2004, review of Candyfreak, p. 238; February 14, 2005, review of The Evil B.B. Chow and Other Stories, p. 51.

San Francisco Chronicle, April 28, 2002, review of My Life In Heavy Metal.

ONLINE

ShinyGun Magazine, http://www.shinygun.com/ (March 24, 2004), profile of Steve Almond.

Steve Almond Home Page, http://www.stevenalmond.com (August 29, 2006).