My Life in Heavy Metal
By Steve Almond
Grove Press/$23

Don't you just want to puke every time you hear trite crapitudes like "John Hiatt is a songwriter's songwriter"? That statement sorta says this: Only other songwriters can stand John Prine — I mean, Hiatt. Ah, same thing.

Poets & Writers magazine is full of folks normal people have never heard of. These writers are very popular among their fellow creative writing grad students, which is great, since that's who they seem to be writing for.

Fortunately, Steve Almond is a reader's writer. Though he eventually went the MFA route, he first did a seven-year stretch in the alternative press. As those reading this well know, the very, very bestest writers bang it out week after week in the alternative press. I mean, am I right or am I right?

Almond's stories feature plausible characters — students, young reporters, aging teachers and hot foreign girls with gross teeth — all of whom are coming of age, mostly in each other's pants. His characters are honest and introspective, but all the brains in the world can't help people without the capacity for sustaining relationships, which are boring as hell, really, compared to serial sex partners who screw you silly.

Almond's joy (sorry, had to) comes from having his narrators' incisors chop right through to the carotid, like in "Run Away My Pale Love," in which the protagonist says of the girl he's not going to be seeing — my bad ... I meant to say "screwing" — much longer, "There is a point you reach ... when you are just something bad that happened to someone else."

I briefly had the privilege of e-mailing with Almond. I was telling him about my intellectually crippled daily newspaper colleagues, who seem interested only in Harry Potter books.

He shot back, suggesting the line, "Think Harry Potter with pussy!"

To my thinking, that can be summed up by saying, "Hairy Pooter."

Viva la difference!

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