I hate to go for the obvious line, but reading Liftin's memoir about how much she loves cheap, sugary candy really is very much like eating cheap, sugary candy: it's fun in small doses, but insubstantial and not nourishing, and will leave you nauseated if you devour too much in one sitting.

Liftin loves candy. Well, actually, I think what she really loves is sugar. She eats pure sugar as a child, then graduates to frosting, marshmallow eggs, circus peanuts, tootsie rolls, and many other forms of candy which I dislike because they mostly taste of sugar. Anyone who has no real preference for Jelly Belly jelly beans over the sugar-tasting generic thick-shelled variety is a person with whom any discussion of candy preferences would be limited to, "Really? That stuff? You really like that stuff? Wow."

Here is the condensed version of Candy and Me: I ate a pound of some type of sugary candy at a sitting. Meanwhile, something happened in my life. Then I got into another type of sugary candy, and ate a pound of that at a sitting. Meanwhile, something else happened. I worried that maybe I was eating too much candy, but since nothing bad ever happened because of it, I went on eating pounds and pounds of candy. Then I met the best guy in the world. Oh my God! I love him so much. He understands that I love eating candy. We got married and lived happily ever after and I still eat a lot of candy, though not as much as I did when I was young. The end.

Like many memoirs, the basic problem with this book is that it has enough content for an amusing feature article. The other problem is that Liftin's relationship with candy has nothing to do with her life in general, though she periodically tries to make it seem like it does by hazarding that perhaps she wants to find the sweetness in life or comfort herself or something. She's not professionally involved with candy, she doesn't have an eating disorder, and she doesn't write about the history of candy or how it relates to pop culture or her own culture. There's candy, and there's her life, and the two don't really have much to do with each other. This makes the book seem thin and gimmicky.

I was thinking about food memoirs or other personal food accounts that I have liked, and the ones that occur to me offhand were written by food critics (Ruth Reichl's Tender to the Bone and Comfort me with Apples and Jonathan Gold's Counter Intelligence), chefs (Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential and A Cook's Tour), amateur chefs (Michael Ruhlman's Soul of a Chef), or by people who see food as being intimately connected to culture, and to personal and cultural identity ([livejournal.com profile] oyceter's food posts). All of these can be quite funny, but also (even Gold's book, which is actually a restaurant guide-- and is one of my very favorite books on Los Angeles) make the connection between the food they love and the most essential aspects of their selves, and I think that's what Liftin's book lacks. I know she loves sugar. But even by the end of a book devoted to her love of sugar, I'm not quite sure why she loves it, or what it really means to her.
I hate to go for the obvious line, but reading Liftin's memoir about how much she loves cheap, sugary candy really is very much like eating cheap, sugary candy: it's fun in small doses, but insubstantial and not nourishing, and will leave you nauseated if you devour too much in one sitting.

Liftin loves candy. Well, actually, I think what she really loves is sugar. She eats pure sugar as a child, then graduates to frosting, marshmallow eggs, circus peanuts, tootsie rolls, and many other forms of candy which I dislike because they mostly taste of sugar. Anyone who has no real preference for Jelly Belly jelly beans over the sugar-tasting generic thick-shelled variety is a person with whom any discussion of candy preferences would be limited to, "Really? That stuff? You really like that stuff? Wow."

Here is the condensed version of Candy and Me: I ate a pound of some type of sugary candy at a sitting. Meanwhile, something happened in my life. Then I got into another type of sugary candy, and ate a pound of that at a sitting. Meanwhile, something else happened. I worried that maybe I was eating too much candy, but since nothing bad ever happened because of it, I went on eating pounds and pounds of candy. Then I met the best guy in the world. Oh my God! I love him so much. He understands that I love eating candy. We got married and lived happily ever after and I still eat a lot of candy, though not as much as I did when I was young. The end.

Like many memoirs, the basic problem with this book is that it has enough content for an amusing feature article. The other problem is that Liftin's relationship with candy has nothing to do with her life in general, though she periodically tries to make it seem like it does by hazarding that perhaps she wants to find the sweetness in life or comfort herself or something. She's not professionally involved with candy, she doesn't have an eating disorder, and she doesn't write about the history of candy or how it relates to pop culture or her own culture. There's candy, and there's her life, and the two don't really have much to do with each other. This makes the book seem thin and gimmicky.

I was thinking about food memoirs or other personal food accounts that I have liked, and the ones that occur to me offhand were written by food critics (Ruth Reichl's Tender to the Bone and Comfort me with Apples and Jonathan Gold's Counter Intelligence), chefs (Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential and A Cook's Tour), amateur chefs (Michael Ruhlman's Soul of a Chef), or by people who see food as being intimately connected to culture, and to personal and cultural identity ([livejournal.com profile] oyceter's food posts). All of these can be quite funny, but also (even Gold's book, which is actually a restaurant guide-- and is one of my very favorite books on Los Angeles) make the connection between the food they love and the most essential aspects of their selves, and I think that's what Liftin's book lacks. I know she loves sugar. But even by the end of a book devoted to her love of sugar, I'm not quite sure why she loves it, or what it really means to her.
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