Steve Almond's first collection of short stories, My Life In Heavy Metal (2002), was praised for its witty treatment of sex. His second collection, The Evil B. B. Chow and Other Stories is more wide ranging. There are, of course, some typical Almond riffs, such as “Skull,” about a woman with a prosthetic eye who uses her socket as a sex organ, and “The Idea of Michael Jackson's Dick,” with some graduate students arguing about whether the famous singer has bleached his sex organ. “Appropriate Sex,” in which a creative writing class debates how much sex is in a story about a woman and an Arabian stallion, is pretty standard Almond stuff.
But there are also such sensitive nonsexual stories as “I Am as I Am,” about a young aspiring baseball player who hits a catcher in the head with his bat during a pickup game, inflecting terrible injury. And one of the most interesting stories, which has nothing to do with sex, is “Lincoln Arisen,” featuring a sort of Huck Finn journey down the Mississippi with Abraham Lincoln as Huck and Frederick Douglass as Jim.
Almond's best stories are combinations of his sympathy for the frailty of the human condition and his obsession with all things sexual. For example in “Wired for Life,” a woman who is being neglected by her handsome lover becomes sexually fascinated by an old Chinese electrician with bad teeth who she visits to have broken wires on her laptop repaired. Although the sexual imagery that results is somewhat sophomoric, the young woman's desperation and need are convincing and real.
In some of these stories you wish Steve Almond would grow up. In others, you are glad he has not.