Lately, I’ve become fascinated with exposès. I read Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation last year. This year, I’ve got Uncommon Grounds (coffee), Sweetness and Power (sugar), and Food Fight (general food, esp. fast) all slated for future reading. In that spirit, I decided to try Steve Almond’s Candyfreak.
I had expected something a bit more… academic. When I saw the book, a scant 288 pages in an undersized hardback, I was a little wary. After reading the introduction, I was even wearier, as Almond takes humourous self-effacement to a new level. From the way he describes his historical and current love for candy, you’d think that he steals furtively to the bathroom every day and has carnal relations with peanut butter cups.
It wasn’t that Almond is necessarily a bad writer. In fact, I often found myself laughing at loud, and there was some actual information in the book, but mostly in the form of polemical tangents against the Big Three (candy manufacturers) who are relegating Almond’s favorite candies to oblivion. Sometimes, out of nowhere, he includes a section about how much he dislikes George W. Bush. It’s a feeling I share, but I cannot for the life of me figure out what it has to do with candy.
Almond decided on a sort of frame narrative for this, which is all good and fine (man with candy obsession tours small-time candy factories and learns in the process), but it’s so ineptly done, so random and inconsistent, that the brief nods back to the frame narrative leave the reader bewildered. One minute Almond is describing in sexual detail the intricacies of a Valomilk, and the next his is whining about the candy being a surrogate for familial love and attention.
It’s an interesting distraction, but hardly a book that I would recommend to people looking for a book about candy.