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/ emews^Lmiií& My Life in Heavy Metal by Steve Almond Grove Press, 2002, 204 pp., $23 Readers of The Missouri Review will recognize the intense, provocative, often hilarious prose they've come to expect from Steve Almond in his debut collection. My Life in Heavy Metal tells the stories of the generation growing up and apart in the 1980s and 1990s, struggling to connect emotionallybut often connecting only sexuaUy. The title story sets the backdrop of hair bands and headbanging that is an inevitable part of the collective consciousness of men coming of age in the eighties. Everyguy David can't understand why his beautiful girlfriend, Jo, loves him; Jo can't understand David's love for heavy metal, a genre to which he ardently devotes himself when he takes ajob as a pop-music critic for a newspaper . When Almond writes of the formulaic scene of a Skid Row show, those of us who've grown up watching MTV know what's he's talking about: "When I stared down the row, I saw twenty heads banging in unison , like angry mops. These were kids lousy with the bad hormones of adolescence, humiliated by the poverty of their prospects, and this was their dance, their chance to be part of some larger phallic brotherhood ; the notes lashed their ribcages, called out to their beautiful, furious wishes." In "Geek Player/Love Slayer" (originally published in The Missouri Review), the triumphs and humiliations oflove from a woman's point of view are told with candor. The story begins, "Computer Boy swaggers over to my cube to help me open this one knucklehead email Phoenix sent me and within about, oh, two seconds, I'm ready to whip off his khakis and blow him right there." Not exactly the kind of material you'd want to read while sitting next to your grandmother on a plane flight, but while the stories have a coarse truthfulness, Almond can turn from playful seediness to truly touching moments within the same story. While the protagonist of "Geek Player" is forced to come to terms with her own lust and its consequences, this is ultimately a story of redemption , one of the few messages ofhope Almond offers in the coUection. Ultimately, beneath the stylish writing , beneath the sometimes vulgar dialogue, are real characters battling against the disUlusionment caused by a sort of generalized post-modern loss of innocence—characters who hide behind façades of detachment, flawed but fumbling for something more. It seems that no matter what they do or whom they hurt, we're stiU rooting for them to find it somewhere . (AB) The Missouri Review · 201 ...


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