Second Bookses

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Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America

Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America (Harvest Book) - Steve Almond I think I first heard of Steve Almond's Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America on Epinions. Having a bit of a sweet tooth myself, and missing more than one of the treats I remember from my childhood, I added it to my Amazon wishlist, and a friend sent it to me for a "just because" gift. I had no idea at the time what a kindred spirit Almond was.::: Ode to Caravelle :::Steve Almond is a man with a problem, judging by his prologue, in which he details his obsession with candy. A listing of candy items currently in his apartment when he was writing it yielded well over five pounds of candy, a feat even my chocolate-obsessed self has only achieved at Halloween and Easter. His obsession with candy coupled with his career as a writing professor combined to beget Candyfreak, which began as a quest to find some of the lost candy of Almond's youth.Almond begins in his local Boston area, but is soon traveling the country visiting small regional candy manufacturers like Sifers Valomilk and Palmer's Candy, viewing manufacturing processes, talking to the owners, and finding out exactly why so many of the treats of his youth are vanishing in the vast candy landscape of White Chocolate Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and holiday-wrapped Hersheys Miniatures.::: Oh, For One Last Bite of Choco-Lite :::I was originally intrigued with Almond's book because he seems like a slightly more off-balance version of myself: child of the 70s, obsessed with candy, nostalgic for a past that can't even be recreated by taste. I, too, have had conversations with friends about the disappearance of my beloved Nestle Choco-Lite, and was thrilled the day that I discovered my brother-in-law also remembered a product I swear went by the name of Foodsticks, came in chocolate and peanut butter varieties, and were almost like a mealy Tootsie Roll.Almond writes in a very stream-of-consciousness style that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. His fascination with the enrobing process on an assembly line (as he describes it, "freaktrance") is palpable, but his rants about his conflicting liberal viewpoints with his obsession with what is so obviously a luxury item seem out of place.I don't think anyone could read Candyfreak without feeling a profound sense of loss. Even reading about the demise of the smaller companies filled me with sadness; not only were people out of work, but a portion of our cultural history disappears every time a small company is forced out of business by the large candy companies. Reading about slotting fees (where a manufacturer pays a sum to a grocer to stock their product that most small companies can't afford) and realizing that even the companies that Almond met with will most likely be gone by the time my children start reminiscing about THEIR childhood candy is depressing.Almond has a wonderful ability to offer the reader a virtual ride-along on his journey, which makes his last chapter all the more baffling, where he bashes the reader over the head with his "get my point?" summary. I think I knew that I couldn't relive my childhood, just like Almond can't relive his. But the joys and sorrows in the attempt, and the interesting people and visions that Almond mets on his journey would have made a five-star book if he hadn't been so intent on making a point. We get it. I miss my favorite independent bookseller, too. Now show me the chocolate.This review previously published on Epinions:

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