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Every couple of years, a writer comes along who tries so desperately to show that he’s got his finger on the pulse of his times that it makes you wish the times would just die already. Brett Easton Ellis, Amy Tan, Jay McInerney, Alex Garland—they keep on appearing, up-and-comers who wear zeitgeist like Armani and whose sole mission in life seems to be to fill us in on the difficulties of being young, affluent, pampered, and (horrors!) oversexed. Steve Almond, whose new short-story collection is called My Life in Heavy Metal, wants to join the list. Most of the book contains stories about hip 20-somethings who find themselves falling in love with exactly the wrong thing, whether it be Poison-era heavy metal, office computer-support personnel, a fuck buddy, or worst of all, a Republican. Almond writes nice sentences, and a few of his shorts are carried along by strength of voice alone: “Jesus, does [he] work out his neck? Does he go to the gym with a specific neck regimen? It occurs to me in this horrible flash I’d prefer not to qualify as an epiphany that he’s probably strong enough to bench press my entire (naked) body with his neck.” Unfortunately, Almond’s frequent recourse to even shallower epiphanies—at the end of “Geek Player, Love Slayer” the narrator finds herself in the arms of Brisby, her office pal and “conscience”—are just plain annoying. Almond complains at 7 p.m. Monday, April 1, at Olsson’s Books & Records, 1200 F St. NW. Free. (202) 347-3686. (Michael Little)