Almond, who claims to have between three and seven pounds of candy in his house at all times, set out to uncover the inexplicable disappearance of the Bit-O-Choc, the Caravelle bar, and other delights. As he documents his visits to candy factories across America, he reveals the true nature of the industry, with hilarious asides examining the role candy plays in our lives, and often confessing his own near-obsessive cravings. Almond's wry writing style is undeniably addictive and impossible to put down until every last bit has been devoured; listeners should be warned to keep a ready supply of sweets on hand.
Hear Steve Almond on the May 28, 2004, edition of Splendid Table, the weekly radio show that explores food, cooking, culture, and more.
©2004 Steve Almond; (P)2004 Highbridge Company
"Strangely endearing." (Publishers Weekly)
"I devoured Candyfreak. Steve Almond writes about chocolate with the passion of a man in love and the wonder of a wide-eyed kid in a candy store." (Tom Perotta, author of Election)
"An entertaining book full of repeatable tidbits about the candy industry." (The New York Times Book Review)
"Wry, self-deprecating, and darkly funny." (The Village Voice)
I've never heard anyone verbally describe candy with such lust and consideration; this guy thinks about candy more than once an hour.
He has considered it so much that he is credible to write a book on the matter which covers a breadth of issues; here are my favorites: globalization of candy-producing markets, why he uses candy as an emotional crutch, and what to do when your favorite confection gets pulled off the market.
The reader is easy to listen to and has better verbal inflection than your average reader. The only cautions I have for this book are that some groups of people are going to be more sensitive to the material because this guy really made me want to eat candy while listening to the book. If you are on a strict diet or diabetic and are trying to avoid just this type of thing, then skip this book. But, if you are a passive fan of candy or even an emotional overeater that needs to confront candy issues, this book might help you to understand how candy lures you in, time and time again.
I have to start by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed most of this book. This was like a romp down memory lane as the author reminisced about Pop Rocks, Lick-a-Sticks and discovering the joys of Goo-Goo Clusters, a southern specialty that my Mississippi-born mother-in-law used to purchase by the case. It was rather difficult to believe that a book about candy could keep me entertained for hours since, even though I do enjoy my sweets, I would definitely not classify myself anywhere in the realm of Steve Almond, Candy freak, but this one did - for the MOST part.
When he was listing the favorite candies and trinkets of his childhood, I was right there. When he was describing the black market that developed as the demand for pop rocks exploded beyond the suppliers' ability to supply them, I was engaged. When he sought out various local "boutique" candy makers and visited their production lines to see, smell and taste first-hand their creations, I wanted to call him up and BEG him to take me along on a return visit. I may not be a complete "candy freak" but I do enjoy good food and his descriptions of stepping out of the car and smelling chocolate and imagining that there could be little else better than arriving at work every day to a place that smelled like heaven had me saying, "Amen!"
Then, he stopped short and stopped me with him when interviewing one of the owners of one of the small boutique companies, an entrepreneur, and speculated with dismay that this guy probably voted for George W. Bush, horror of horrors! In other words, up to that point, he had really liked this guy (the entrepreneur) and had become appreciative of the hard work and business sense that it took to get the independent candy maker to this point but if this entrepreneurial schlub had actually been stupid enough to vote for W, he couldn't be a human being worth much more consideration. This little rabbit trail rant unsettled and distracted me for about 15 minutes, but hey, there aren't many authors/screenwriters/reporters/newscasters these days who don't feel it their moral duty to constantly put in a jibe wherever they can no matter how inappropriate or irrelevant the comment or setting may be that basically categorizes all such creatures somewhere on the level of one-celled amoebas - and THEY call US judgmental and intolerant!
Anyway, his initial political digression made me realize that, much as I had wanted to come along with him to chocolate heaven, he had just made it very clear that if I voted for Bush, my ranking as a sentient human being had just dropped significantly, so much in fact, that he would have no desire to have me along for the ride. That is a rather unfortunate position to take when you are an author of a non-fiction FOOD book and are asking your readers to come along - UNLESS you don't happen to agree with him politically. So, because I was listening while gardening and didn't have the clean hands to stop the audiobook in progress, I continued on when, about three quarters of the way through, he did it again. That's the kind of commentary we need & want in a candy documentary, right?!!
In truth, his diatribes against the "rich" as well as anyone stupid enough to have any leanings towards conservative ideals probably lasted only a few minutes total. I don't expect authors to hide their political ideologies and I am willing to forgive a lot. I am very capable of enjoying a book or film by people I know are politically on the opposite side of the spectrum from me. However when they assume (and we all know what happens when we ass-u-me, right?) that anyone holding differing political opinions is not only less humane or intelligent, but someone not worthy of further consideration, I do tend to become personally offended at that. A book like this is an intimate adventure between the reader and the author and this author, spoke directly into my ear exactly what he thinks about people like me and, honestly it left a pretty bad taste in my mouth for what was otherwise a very sweet read.
There's no doubt that listing to this book will get you craving candy--lots and lots of it. But this book is about more than one person's love for candy; it's about passion--passion for those things that make life worth living. As author Steve Almond indicates several times in the book, we all have our own personal "freaks." And it's this "freakdom" (no matter the object) that defines who we are. Thus, Almond's book is actually an attempt to discover what's most important and valuable to him. This explains the humorous asides, political commentaries, and personal details (sometimes quite sad) sprinkled throughout. And yet, despite this somewhat "heavy" subtext, the book is loads of fun and often incredibly funny. And speaking of funny, this audiobook represents to me the most perfect matching of audiobook narrator to a book that I've ever come across. Oliver Wyman is a delight to listen to. His cheerful/comic tone couldn't be a better match for Almond's subject matter.
Anyone who loves candy, be it fancy chocolates or dime store penny candy, will thoroughly enjoy this exceptionally witty and insightful book. The history of various candies along with intricate and humorous descriptions of their tastes and textures was beyond amusing. The wry, self-deprecating humor of Steve Almond is in the flavor of David Sedaris. I never thought anyone appreciated candy the way I do, nor did I think it possible to describe it in words so eloquently and hysterically. I can't wait to read to another of his books.
This book is very enjoyable, and has changed the way I look at candy. Prepare to be involved in this book, because it is more than a listen. I ended up driving an hour to find a Valomilk after listening to the chapter on them. I'm saving up to buy a case of Five Star Bars.
After listening to candyfreak, I find myself in candy aisles, letting my eyes feast in the variety, searching out any candy I haven't tried before.
I highly recommend this book.
This might have been a three-star book, but only a two-star audio book. The auspiciously named Almond writes of his own consuming obsession with candy and the candy industry aiming for a David Sedaris-type admirable neurotic selfishness and wry humor, but missing the target for several reasons. The audio itself is partly to blame. The author, attempting to read his own material with--what? passion? interest?--speaks in overly excited tones that eventually become tiring for the ear. Despite that flaw, the first half, mainly the childhood recollections and pychological speculations of the author, comes closest to the correct tone, elicting laughter or longing at its best moments, such as the hilarious chapter on the worst candies, Mistakes Were Made, or the genuinely mournful elegy for the discontinued Caravel. Unfortunately, the book is more informational than the publisher bills it, and the second half of the book is made up mainly of essays on individual small manufacturers. The author struggles to paint indivudual portraits of people in fairly similar circumstances, namely trying to survive with a vanishing market for their nostalgia and regional items. While I was initially intrigued by the inside accounts and brief history of the American candy industry, audio essays must be written to give very distinctive images and feelings to the listener in order to stay distinct. As Almond tours factory after factory meeting plucky underdog after plucky underdog, the characters and atmosphere begin to melt together like so much warm marshmallow. I suspect it would work better in print, but in audio it becomes too easy to tune out yet another description of chocolate-enrobed nuts and salt-of-the-earth CEOs. Truly unbearable, however, are the author's occasional maudlin attempts to tie the deficiencies of his childhood and adult life to his obsession with the ultimate comfort food, which he employs in a particularly criminal manner to wrap up the book.
Listening to this is like eating baker's chocolate, and if you're looking for a well researched book about sweets, this is not it. However, if you're looking for a semi-interesting, sometimes crude memoir of a life spent eating candy, you may enjoy Candyfreak. If the author hadn't thrown in the seemingly random sexual humor, I would have enjoyed it more and even likened him to an up and coming Dave Barry type.
Yes! It was informative and funny.
The history of some of the small candy companies.
Not a good movie book!
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