Should we talk about the weather?

Probably not, but I’ll wager that Boston’s is shittier than yours right now. Which, in all honesty, doesn’t bother me unless I have to be out when the wind’s at its worst. In my 10 years living here, I don’t recall ever having wanted to turn the heat as Memorial Day approached.

But I’m out of the wet now and happily pajamafied. The work dinner was actually quite nice; I was glad Ezra joined the group for a little while. And D left me a giant note on the bathroom mirror before he left for rehearsal, which was rather nice to come home to.

I’ve been delinquent in reviewing the past two books I’ve finished, Steve Almond’s Candyfreak and Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation, both of which I’d recommend highly.

I’d intended to buy Candyfreak when it came out in paperback, but I kept picking it up in bookstores and putting it down — much as I like Almond’s short fiction, I wasn’t sure that a survey of minor-league candymakers would grab my attention. I ended up asking D to pick it up from the Somerville Library, finished it in a weekend, then immediately started reading it from the beginning straight through. Almond’s childhood memory of going to the Old Barrel to get the Sunday New York Times and trancing out in front of their candy display sent me back to weekly Sunday visits to the Readmore Bookstore and doing the same. And I knew I could trust his opinion when he listed candies that he feels belong to the MWM (Mistakes Were Made) category. He describes the texture of red Twizzlers, for example, as “somewhere between chitin and rain poncho,” and he has nothing good to say about coconut or white chocolate. Clearly, his was an opinion I could trust. Other representatives of the MWM category include:

Marshmallow Peeps: A candy that encourages the notion that it is acceptable to eat child offspring. Composed of marshmallow dyed piss yellow and sprinkled with sugar.

Circus Peanuts: Again, a marshmallow pretending to be something else, this time a legume. An affront to elephants everywhere.

Boston Baked Beans: If you are an actual peanut, why are you not covered in chocolate? Why are you covered, instead, in some kind of burnt-tasting brick red shell? Is the idea that you resemble a baked bean supposed to make you more alluring?

Jordan Almonds: Who designed the color scheme, Zsa Zsa Gabor?

Chuckles: A fruit jelly the consistency of cartilage. Explain.

Sixlets: Those of us over the age of, say, three can usually differentiate between chocolate and brown wax.

White jelly beans: I defy you to tell me what flavor white is supposed to signify. Pineapple? Coconut? Isopropyl?

His forays into the once-vaunted Boston candy empire are equally bewitching to someone who once became violently jealous of a friend who described living “down the street from the Necco factory.” (You can imagine my delight when I first laid eyes on the Necco building’s smokestack, painted in pastel rings.) His descriptions of eating a Five-Star Hazelnut Bar from the Lake Champlain Chocolate Company border on the erotic, as do the passages about watching the enrobing process (”the money shot of candy production”). Any reader with even a ghost of interest in arcane mechanical processes will share my delight in learning exactly how various confections are made, even if you’ve never tasted a Goldenberg Peanut Chew, an Idaho Spud, or a Twin Bing. And while the fate of many of the smaller confectionary companies seems dicey at best in the shadow of the Big Three (Mars, Hershey’s, Nestlé), Almond’s portraits of regional candymakers who’ve managed to cling to their niche market offer some hopefulness, too.

My only quibbles have less to do with Almond’s writing than with the dreadful copyediting on the edition I read (”ager ager”? “patheon”? “a charming phrase from my creative writing students — was sack it up“?), which no doubt will have been corrected by now. (Either that, or the Somerville Library is getting review copies and doesn’t realize it.) I could have also done without the cringe-worthy puns in the cover blurbs, most of them by Amy Sedaris.

I’ll try to write up something on Assassination Vacation soonish.

8 Responses to “Should we talk about the weather?”

  1. Ezraeli says:

    Visit Ezraeli

    Have you seen the Necco tower lately? It’s gone. Painted grey, with a Novartis logo.

    I actually love circus peanuts. I do agree that they shouldn’t imitate the shape of something else, though. They are much better than anything nature could have churned out.

  2. Flasshe says:

    Visit Flasshe

    I have an odd relationship with circus peanuts. The taste is okay, but the texture makes me cringe. I get creeped out even touching them.

  3. Editrix says:

    Visit Editrix

    E: Yeah, bummer that the Necco tower as I loved is no more. What’s next, the Citgo sign?

    E & F (no Hutton): Full disclosure? I omitted Almond’s ragging on Green Life Savers, as I don’t get why they’re any less-naturally flavored than the other colors; I apologize for my bias. Maybe Circus Peanuts are one of those polarizing love-or-loathe kinds of things, like Tori Amos.

  4. Ezra says:

    Visit Ezra

    Maybe it’s also related to the whole Uncanny Valley theory in robotics. ( ) If something seems purely artificial, it doesn’t seem creepy. But if it has the springy consistency of, say, human flesh, it might be kinda creepy to eat.

  5. Editrix says:

    Visit Editrix

    Circus Peanuts are people! We’ve gotta stop them somehow!

    Actually, Ezra, I believe your theory is the first instance where this bloc’s title has had any shred of relevance to the content.

  6. 2fs says:

    Visit 2fs

    I like Boston Baked Beans. There. I’ve said it. Also: So Rog, do you spill the whole bag of circus peanuts out on the table, and then lean your head over and pick them up with your teeth so you don’t have to touch them? But see - that’s the point! You’re eating them like an elephant would eat peanuts! Of course, if you were really an elephant, you’d snork them up with your nose and then put them in your mouth - which is probably even more squick-making than just touching the damned things already. All this food talk: be forewarned - if I ever find out I have an invariably fatal disease and I’m gonna die in like six months, I will balloon to 400 pounds like that in losing all restraint of appetite. Perhaps I will dye my hair jet-black and sport rhinestone-encrusted white jumpsuits as well.

  7. Ezra says:

    Visit Ezra

    Holy crap. I concede defeat, Editrix. That was the best takedown ever, and it took me three minutes to realize what you were talking about.

  8. Editrix says:

    Visit Editrix

    Wuh-what? Takedown? I think you’re giving me too much credit.

  9. Candy Girl says:

    Visit Candy Girl

    Editrixie, I am intrigued by this candy book, so I’ve gone and reserved a copy at my library. Thanks for ye olde heads up.

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