Candyfreak by Steve Almond was a very nice literary palette cleanser after the trauma of that last book.
First, some background:
Back in November I went to Wordstock, Portland’s enormous book festival (god I love this town!). While there I stopped at a few of the stages and listened to various authors read from their books. Steve Almond was reading from his newest book Not That You Asked, and he had us laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes. When he was done I went to get the book but so did everyone else. I figured I’d skip the line & pick up the book later. If I wrote down the name of the book, I lost the note. Later I found myself in Powell’s having a conversation that went something like this.
World’s most patient man: “Can I help you?”
Me: “Um… Did you go to Wordstock? I’m looking for this book by this guy who was there.”
“I didn’t get a chance to go this year – do you remember the name of the book?”
“Um… no… but I think the author’s name is Dave or John or something.”
“Do you remember his last name?”
“Um… no…but I just remember he was at the Border’s stage.”
At this point the world’s most patient man is googling “Wordstock” to see if he can find a schedule. “Which day was it?” (Wordstock is a 4 day book festival!)
“Um… I think it was the weekend…. you know… never mind. I’m sorry.”
“Well, they’ve got a schedule online if you want to look at it.”
I glance at the schedule… there are about a million and a half speakers listed.
“I’m sorry; I’ll just go home & see if I can figure it out.”
“Ok – good luck!”
All I have to say about that is - SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORES PEOPLE!! You can bet your sweet bippy you wouldn’t get service like that at Wal-Mart.
ANYWAY I did some Google-fu and was able to figure out who it was but promptly went on to reading other books. As I was strolling through Goodwill picking up some used books I happened to see Candyfreak just sitting there on the shelf. I picked it up for $4 – not bad.
On to my highly opinionated and minimally educated book review.
Warning: Anyone concerned about their weight or blood sugar should *not* read this book. Everyone else should make sure they have a few of their favorite candy bars on hand while reading.
Plot: Mr. Almond (who is quite aware of the appropriateness of his last name), a self-described ‘candy freak’ rhapsodizes about his favorite candy bars and tours a few of the remaining small-scale regional candy factories in America.
Motto: Life is like a box of chocolates.
Opinion: The first half of this book is hilarious and borderline pornographic in it’s detailed descriptions of the author’s favorite candy bars. He loves candy. I mean he loves candy! He’s refreshingly unashamed of his sweet tooth and really knows how to let his freak flag fly. We start with a brief history of the candy bar and a review of the varieties of candies that have been available in different regions of the US - Necco Wafers, Goo Goo Clusters, Idaho Spuds. From there he actually visits the candy factories and gives us an insider’s view of how each component of a candy bar is created & compiled into the finished products we enjoy. It’s a bit like a real-life Charlie & the Chocolate Factory & a lot of fun to read.
In the second half of the book, however, his mood turns morose as he reflects on the economic power of the big three candy companies and how they have forced many local candy manufacturers out of the business. He also does more than a little navel-gazing and musing about his own life… and frankly that part is boring. But it’s a short book, with a relatively upbeat ending.
Recommendation: Borrow this book from the library (or me) and read the first half with a pile of your favorite candies nearby. Mmmmmmm…chocolate!