Candyfreak: The Bad Influence of Steve Almond

Last weekend was the summer version of the semi-annual Harvard Bookstore Warehouse Sale. Mike, my boyfriend, had been asking me when it was happening, so when I got the email with the date, I knew Saturday was booked. The staff was friendly as usual, overly grateful for the crowd’s patience with their slow computer system. They passed out free water and bite sized candy bars. I chose a Snickers while I stood in line holding Steve Almond’s Candyfreak, which I’d found in the used section of the warehouse and thus paid 60% off the cover price for. Take that, Amazon.

Mike’s on summer vacation, and has been venturing further into the world of reading physical books rather than listening to audiobooks all the time. Our porch and the weather has thus far complied, letting us sit for hours in each other’s presence, racing the setting sun as we just finish one more chapter, only speaking to one another to share a funny-but-out-of-context-and-so-not-funny portion or ask what a word means. It’s my favorite kind of bonding, of the nerd variety.

We read on the porch Saturday night after the sale, and then again on Sunday. On Monday, I took the bus that runs in front of my apartment rather than walking the few blocks to the T, all so I could read more about small, independent, suffering candy companies across America, and hoping Steve Almond would drive by to see someone reading his book. I’m one of his fangirls.

I finished the book on Monday night, which means that in three days, I ingested more book-per-day than I had in a long time, and also more chocolate-covered almonds/pretzels than I meant to. If you don’t like chocolate, small companies, introspection, or Willy Wonka, this isn’t the book for you. This is like the book version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, if, you know, there wasn’t already one. Here’s a grown man, known for his humor and deadpan manner, who becomes a groupie for candybars. And not your run-of-the-mill Snickers and Butterfinger variety. Almond (he points out the irony of his last name) goes on a pilgrimage to the remaining independent candy companies, and–get this–tries Peanut Chews, Goo Goo Clusters (I especially appreciated this southern shout-out), Twin Bings (ew) straight off the line!

But most of all, what Almond accomplished with this book, is to make me stop into more convenience stores, stare at their candybar selection disapprovingly, and walk out, leaving the person behind the counter wondering what I stole.

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