Writer Steve Almond has these three obsessions: sex, candy and heartbreak. His acclaimed short story collection, My Life in Heavy Metal, told tales of physical desire, love and longing. A new nonfiction book, Candyfreak chronicles Almond's lifelong passion for candy (especially the discontinued Caravelle bar) as he undertakes a sugar- and nostalgia-fueled exploration of America's confectionary industry. "Art arises from loss," avers Almond dolefully, "this entire book arose from the loss of a single candy bar." (Guess which one!) Candyfreak is witty, hip and deftly written, a gonzo hybrid of a book that is part memoir, part culinary journalism. Almond's funny, soul-baring story takes him to our nation's small, independent candy factories. Yes, he's an "unbridled candyfreak," drawn there by the promise of free samples. But he's also out to uncover the voraciousness of American candy capitalism, and why it led to the demise of the Caravelle. Almond's narrative ranges from sensual to Zen-like zany. There are melting accounts of silky dark chocolate, salty roasted peanuts and gorgeous, gooey marshmallow. There is a strange haiku inspired by witnessing Goo Goo Clusters receive an assembly line chocolate bath: "Brown rivers released/From cold silver machines sing/For a stunned wet tongue." But the ultimate appeal of this wonderful, quirky book is its soft center of surprise: yearning and existential loneliness hide inside the chewy layers of fact and zingy, acerbic humor.

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