The adulation accorded Steve Almond constitutes one of the blogosphere's enduring mysteries. From the very first days of this site, I've shaken my head in a sort of dazed wonder at the wake of overheated prose stylings the guys leaves behind. So I am, of course, delighted that the Washington Post's Jonathan Yardley finally steps up and speaks the truth:
Like so many others who write books in these early years of the glorious new millennium, Almond is utterly, absolutely fascinated by himself, and he assumes that he is every bit as fascinating to everyone else. Self-absorption is the engine that drives most memoirs these days, and it's spilled over into scholarship and journalism as well. Many academics consider it not merely useful but mandatory to include their own experiences in the ostensibly scholarly inquiries they publish, and many journalists have persuaded themselves that the reporter is more important than the story.
So Almond is just going with the flow when he begins the book with "SOME THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE AUTHOR," when he tells us that he was a "devout thumbsucker, years zero to ten," that "I have a distinctly candyfreakish name," that "the date of my birth, October 27, [is] a mere four days before the Freak National Holiday," Halloween. Likewise, Almond is indulging a well-worn memoir conceit when he describes himself as "an addict, a confirmed freak, a willing accomplice of the modern imperial system, sweet-tongued and complicit." None of this contributes a scintilla to what his publisher describes as "a quest to discover candy's origins in America, to explore the little companies that continue to get by on pluck and perseverance, and to witness the glorious excess of candy manufacturing," but it certainly tells us a whole lot more than we want (or need) to know about Steve Almond.
If Almond devoted a fraction of the efforts he brings to self-promotion to his writing, he might finally be on to something. But I doubt it.