by Steve Almond
I met Steve Almond at Bread Loaf last summer. His two earlier books, My Life in Heavy Metal and Candyfreak, had both made a splash and he sounded like an interesting guy. He led a seminar in how to write sex and since I hadn’t read any of his work before, I didn’t know ideally suited he was for the topic, at least because he does seem to have had a lot of experience writing about sex.
His short story collection, The Evil B.B. Chow had just been released at the time of Bread Loaf and I picked up a copy which he inscribed for me: “Cliff—Instructions for use: 1) Sex 2) Chocolate 3) Rinse 4) Repeat. Write on! Steve Almond.” And on the whole I would say that I enjoyed the collection. The title story, which sounds like it might be a film starring Charlie Chan, is as dark and tense as it sounds, although funny in spots. The female narrator—Almond writes her quite convincingly—is set up with Brock Chow. He’s a sensitive guy and they get along and pretty soon they’ve got a serious relationship. When he breaks it off, she broods and does a little digging and finds out some pretty interesting things about the evil B.B. Chow. My favorite story, though, might be “Larsen’s Novel,” probably because it pokes fun at the loser who has written a terrible, very-autobiographical novel, long at that, that he asks his friend, the story’s narrator, to read. The narrator can barely get through it, won’t return the guy’s phone calls, avoids him at all costs, and finally sucks it up and goes to see him. Meanwhile, the writer has completely lost it, his wife has run off, the kids have trashed the house. The narrator, who feels responsible, faces the task of trying to help his friend pull things together.
This is a short book, and worth reading.