Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Candyfreak, by Steve Almond

True story: one evening I was downstairs and I had to poop. I don't like to poop without having something to do; it seems like such a waste of time. All the books I was reading were upstairs, so I went to the bookshelf and started looking for something to read. Our books are alphabetized by the authors' last names, so the first book I came across that I hadn't already read, that wasn't a giant work of political science or history, was Candyfreak, and that's how I came to read this book.

This is one of my wife's favorite books. In fact, she just asked me, "Are you going to give it a good review because I love it so much?" I might be tempted to do that, if this were her book review blog. However, she writes book reviews for a different website, and she can post all her pro-Candyfreak opinions there. Here I will post my Candyfreak opinions, which are less glowing.

Firstly, there was way too much pretentious food writing. I understand that Almond can't describe every candy bar he eats as, "Crunchy, sweet, really sugary," but he also doesn't need to write things like, "The interplay of tastes and textures was remarkable: the teeth broke through the milky chocolate shell, sailed through the mild caramel, only to encounter the smoky crunch of the almonds, and finally, the rich tumescence of the dark chocolate" (101). Please. What's most remarkable about this overblown navel-gazing is the fact that, not four pages later, Almond writes of fine chocolate critics, "This movement has, alas, spawned its own insufferable rhetoric.... (Those familiar with other luxury foods--wine and coffee, for instance--are no doubt familiar with this process: the curdling of expertise into hauteur.) The new chocolate specialty products are equally pretentious." (105-6). He could have just as easily included, "And so is the burgeoning field of candy literature." But he didn't. Because Shakespeare gotta get paid, son.

The second most annoying thing is Almond's need to tell me that George W. Bush is a horrible president. Why, because of something involving candy? No, just because. In case you wanted to know how Almond felt about the 2002 midterm elections, he tells you on pages 203-4. He then veers from respectability into the realm of the complete hack by claiming Bush stole the election of 2000, which is such a contemptible, outright damnable lie that I'm surprised I didn't just stop reading right there. For the record: requiring a state to have ONE election standard for the entire state is not illegal. In fact, 7 of 9 supreme court justices found it a necessary requirement of our Constitution. Perhaps Gore won Florida, but since ballots were treated differently and counted differently (at Gore's team's bequest), no one will ever know. Saying Bush stole the election, and saying the Supreme Court decision was 5 to 4 are sure signs of liberal worthlessness. Almond covers himself with this stench, all while ostensibly writing a book about candy.

Since my wife read this book several years ago, I've already eaten many of the rarer candies featured here. We saw Palmer's in Sioux City when we visited friends there. I didn't particularly like the Twin Bing, but I bet I'd get used to it if I lived there. Living in Kansas with a compliant local grocery store, I ate my fair share of Valomilks. I like them a lot, but I'm disappointed when I open a pack to find they've leaked. I like eating Idaho Spuds when we visit Utah, and I grew up in California, where I loved eating Rocky Roads. The second half of the book features Almond's visits to all these factories. If you can ignore the strident claptrap, the book can be somewhat enjoyable.

Rating: 3 out of 7 giant inflatable monkeys.

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