Almond, Steven 1967(?)-
ALMOND, Steven 1967(?)-
PERSONAL: Born c. 1967. Education: Wesleyan University, B.A., 1988; University of North Carolina at Greensboro, M.F.A.
ADDRESSES: Home—26 Dartmouth St., Somerville, MA 02145. Offıce—Boston College, 140 Commonwealth Ave., Chestnut Hill, MA 02467. E-mail— [email protected].
AWARDS, HONORS: Pushcart Prize, 2002, for story "The Pass."
My Life in Heavy Metal (short stories), Grove (New York, NY), 2002.
Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), 2004.
Almond's stories have appeared in many literary journals and magazines, including Ploughshares, Book, Harvard Review, Playboy, Missouri Review, Zoetrope, Southern Review, Antioch Review, and the New England Review.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A second collection of stories, tentatively titled The Evil B. B. Chow and Other Stories.
SIDELIGHTS: Steven Almond's first collection of short stories, My Life in Heavy Metal, 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. The collection received critical accolades, with most reviewers commenting on Almond's fresh approach to writing about sex in a way that transcends the physical. A critic for Kirkus Reviews characterized the collection as "fourteen delightful debut stories more often than not about man's powerlessness in the face of feminine beauty." Almond, a former newspaper reporter, teaches creative writing at Boston College and has had numerous short stories published in a variety of literary journals, including Ploughshares and the Southern Review.
The title story in My Life in Heavy Metal 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 thirtysomething reporter seeks the approval of a fellow reporter, a situation that prevents her from giving in to her carnal desire to flirt with a computer techie coworker. But at an office party, she loses the battle and succumbs to the computer geek's charms, while the more esteemed reporter looks at her with contempt. However, "the story resolves into something else," wrote Claire Dederer of the New York Times Book Review, something more than a gen-X office satire: "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 Verdone in the Boston Globe.
Most critics appreciated Almond's language and his eye for contemporary culture. Dederer said 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 of the Los Angeles Times claimed that Almond's characters use "their sexual curiosity like antennae probing alien landscapes." And Eric Miles Williamson of the Houston Chronicle said that "Almond is rhapsodic without being false, without relying on stereotypes. . . . His work is musky and lustily comic, heady without being sterile, coars 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."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Almond, Steven, My Life in Heavy Metal, Grove (New York, NY), 2002.
Booklist, February 15, 2004, Mark Knoblauch, review of Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America, p. 1007.
Boston Globe, April 9, 2002, Jules Verdone, "Author Forges Vivid Stories of Longing in Heavy Metal," p. E2.
El Paso Times, May 5, 2002, Kate Gannon, "Naked Honesty."
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.
Library Journal, February 15, 2004, John Charles, review of Candyfreak, p. 154.
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, "Motley Crews: Two Debut Short Story Collections Center on Disaffected Young People," p. 6.
Publishers Weekly, February 18, 2002, review of MyLife in Heavy Metal, p. 70; January 26, 2004, review of Candyfreak, p. 238.
San Francisco Chronicle, April 28, 2002, review of My Life In Heavy Metal.
ShinyGun Magazine,http://www.shinygun.com/ (March 24, 2004), profile of Steven Almond.
Steven Almond Home Page,http://www.stevenalmond.com/ (March 24, 2004).*