May 06, 2004


Jimmy Beck

Yes, I couldn't agree more. I haven't read Candyfreak, but his fiction is "lite fare" a la Lorrie Moore on a bad day and I've found his essays on Moby and his own website to be puerile, hamhanded, ill-conceived whining straight from the Eggers-Julavits assembly line.

He's coming to my town next week to give a reading. Will I be there? Absolutely. In fact I wouldn't miss it. Two words: free samples.


Yardley's like 100 so it doesn't matter what he thinks. His idea of candy is the bourbon soaked cherry at the bottom of a Manhattan (not thath there's anything wrong with that). Whether Almond's writing about candy, nipple clamps or himself, he's one of the most engaging writers out there, and he possesses something that Yardley sorely lacks: a sense of humor.

Your Anonymous Roving Correspondent

Tod Goldberg

I personally find his short fiction very engaging, though not in the way I find short fiction by, say, Tim O'Brien (or, well, the old Tim O'Brien)which engages me on a more intellectual level. Instead, it's more like reading about something from my own past, a memory of being a dumb kid in the 80s or being a dumb single person in the 90s. Basically, he makes me laugh, which isn't such a bad thing. He may be obsessed with himself, but I challenge you (the royal you, I mean) to find a writer who isn't.


"But distracting and ultimately annoying though all this narcissism is, there's also some interesting and occasionally amusing stuff."

To my eyes, this was less of a takedown of Almond than you seem to think. The author goes on to quote an entire long passage - out of grudging admiration, maybe? I don't know. Certainly not an unusual take on him - most every review of his fiction runs along the same lines: he's self-obsessed, sex-obsessed, immature. But most agree he is funny, and many (myself included) believe that he's a pretty skilled craftsman of engaging, generous, honest stories.

And since when is being funny bad? It's actually pretty hard to be funny in print. And though he may not be Franzen or Delillo, he's not exactly "lite" either. Not that there's anything wrong with "lite"....

I think part of the adulation that mystifies you - and hey, let's face it, this is adulation on a microscopic level, even by literary standards - is due to the fact that his stuff is accessible, and in some circles that appears to be a crime. Just my two cents....


Well, personally, I only recently referred to Steve Almond's work to prove a point about erotica. Which is not to suggest that I particularly care for the guy's work, but I do think, unlike Mr. Beck, that he has more going on than the Eggers/Julavits people. Then again, I don't know what the hell Beck's drinking right now (pass me some), because that's a bit like comparing "Fanny Hill" to "Everything is Illuminated."


My fandom of Almond is as follows:

MY LIFE IN HEAVY METAL--I've read the collection about five times, cover to cover, and I don't do that with most books. Maybe it's Lorrie Moore "lite" (haven't read her, alas, though I plan to rectify that soon) but his fiction speaks to me.

But his essays, his weeklong turn at Bookslut--well, they were and are a bit of a mess. So what's going on?


Almond has a voice, and when it works, it hits me like a sucker punch--reading a story like "Valentino" was like having a lightbulb go on in my head. "Oh," I thought, "so that's how teen boys tried to relate to each other." Because I knew kids that tried to be so cool in having specific knowledge, even if they didn't know shit.

But it's a voice that's very rough around the edges, that no doubt is helped along by whoever at Grove/Atlantic is guiding him (Morgan Entrenkin?) so when he's left to his own devices, well, it can be somewhat disastrous.

I'll probably get around to CANDYFREAK at some point soon, but I'm more excited about the next collection of short stories. Because hopefully, Almond's fiction voice will be honed even more, guided even further to what it can--and should--be.


I thought a couple of his stories were fine, but found Candyfreak unreadable.

Jimmy Beck

For the record, Ed, I'm drinking Manischevitz Concord Grape cut with Formula 409. And incidentally, both Fanny Hill and Foer's book are disjointed narratives and both are loved by Erica Jong, for starters. Only Cleland's book ever gave me wood, though....

FWIW, I was too dismissive of Almond's fiction--I've not read the whole collection, just some stories in Tin House, SQ, MAR and "This Company Died For Your Lawn..." in the Missouri Review. But I still find the nonfiction annoying. But I still want some fucking candy.

Bob Sassone

'Truth' according to who? I think by truth you mean 'honesty,' and really, honesty is just an opinion. Personally, I find Almond to be a fine writer. "My Life In Heavy Metal" and his new memoir "Candyfreak" are both well-written and entertaining. The short stories have a vivid bluntness lacking in most "literary" short fiction, and the candy book succeeds not only as a personal history, but as a study of candy history VIA personal history. What's wrong with the idea of tackling a bigger pop culture subject through personal memoir?

"Self-absorption is the engine that drives most memoirs these days..." Gee, I guess that's why they're called memoirs.

He may not be Franzen or Delillo? Thank God for that.

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