Tin House ‘Candy’ is Sweet & Twisted! A Review

In full disclosure, I submitted a story to the Tin House Candy issue in the hopes of busting into the sweet success of a major literary journal, and, as of this writing, my Submittable submission is still “in process.” Whether they’ve forgotten about it or pushed it onto consideration for another issue, I don’t know. Ok, now onto the review (im)proper…

How could we at Aromatica Poetica not celebrate an issue which, although full of the tantalizing wrappings of candy as visible aesthetic object, takes literary taste sensations to a new level. I harbor no sour grapes towards Tin House Candy, even though it does not include my story. It’s still great, which is no surprise since it’s Tin House. Besides the excellent writing, as a writer and reader who is blind, I appreciate them as a top-notch lit mag that deigns to publish print as well as Kindle (accessible) versions.

Having been gripped with both addiction to candy and jealousy–sweet/bitter addictions!–I could viscerally relate to Tara Ison’s “The Meat Bee.” Her–the character we know only as “honey”–struggles against sugar–any sugar!–and her losing battle goes darkly humorous right away and does not relent. From the initial sting to the horrible litany of sweet rewards, this story grabs you by your deepest cravings and does not let up.

Speaking of cravings “Occasionally in the Night, a Vague Craving Arose” by Sean Ennis, is a hilarious look at how drug addicts can so easily become candy addicts, and the new suite of dangers this presents.

And speaking of jealousy, “Candy: A Footnote” by Rebecca Makkai, is the essay I wish I wrote. It’s a suspiciously outrageous family saga of tricks and treats, and it will make you wish you were Hungarian.

“A Chocolate Named Coup” by Alejandro Zambra and translated by Megan McDowell is another wonderful essay that speaks to the shamelessness of commercialism, especially when marketing foul-tasting confections as sweets. In Contingency, Chinelo Okparanta’s chalk candy obsession testifies to the perplexities of human adaptability.

I was a little underwhelmed by so much Hansel and Gretel and could do without the Candy Crush poetry, but in the end, I’m not much of a poetry gal, unless it’s my own. I haven’t really made it out of my adolescence in many ways. Sigh. That said, “What I Would Like to Grow in My Garden” by Katherine Riegel is delightful. I am a snob about fake lavender smells too.

The theme of candy proved so striking, that I found the literal morsels more satisfying than the metaphorical ones, with one exception. “Guided Tour” by Steven Millhauser, speaks mountains about our desire for pre-packaged and consumable authenticity, without considering the lack of truth in it–the lived experience of it–until, that is, AuthentiTour satiates the desire with finality.

In sum, Candy offers so much yumminess, that you will finish the whole sampler and not feel the least bit bad about it, unless of course, you are a self-flagellating writer (is there any other kind?), who questions her own worth in the face of so much great writing.