- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Hawthorne Books; 1 edition (Jan. 14 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0976631156
- ISBN-13: 978-0976631156
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.9 x 22.9 cm
- Shipping Weight: 386 g
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #511,380 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Clown Girl: A Novel Paperback – Jan 14 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
As Drake's debut opens, Nita, otherwise known as Sniffles the Clown, is tying balloon animals for a horde of greedy, sticky children at a fair. Suffering what may be a cardiac event, she's rushed to the hospital—after trying to get help from a clown fetishist, who simply drops his phone number on top of her prone form. Welcome to wacky, stressful Baloneytown, where clown prostitution, stoned dogs and fire juggling–cum–arson are the norm. Nita struggles to make enough money clowning to keep herself in oversized shoes and squirting daisies, while also saving for Clown College tuition for her boyfriend, handsome clown Rex Galore. But Rex is mostly MIA, and Nita's longing for him settles on local cop Jerrod. While not much happens, the pace of the narrative is methamphetamine-frantic, as Drake drills down past the face paint and into Nita's core, often using Nita's relations with men as the bit. Nita emerges as a fully-realized character, bearing witness to a lot of the emotionally ridiculous and just a hint of the sublime. Some plot threads never quite come together, and a few characters are underdeveloped, but there is a lot more going on here than just clowning around. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
An introduction by novelist Chuck Palahniuk and a rubber chicken on the cover promise lots of nervous laughs for Drake's dark debut. The tale revolves around Nita (aka Sniffles the Clown), who inhabits Baloneytown, a depressed, crime-infested metropolis where residents peer warily out their windows when a cop car drives by. Nita aspires to high art but finds herself caught in a vicious cycle of corporate clown gigs that creep ever closer to prostitution. She misses her boyfriend (and fellow clown) Rex Galore, who has gone off to interview at Clown College. And now her dog has gone missing, her relationship with her housemates is on the skids, and the only friend she has left is a golden-haired policeman who is surprisingly concerned about her well-being. Drake, who teaches at Pacific Northwest College of Art, renders rich, sinewy prose (with heady references to Chaplin, Kafka, da Vinci, and the like), but her offbeat subject matter and plot would play better as a short story. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Further troubles befall the protagonist, nicknamed "Snuffy," when she falls in with a cop (no one talks to cops in Baloneytown)and a band of female clowns whose corporate gigs lean farther and farther from art. Essentially, this novel is an examination of the classic struggle of the artist: art versus life, art versus success, art versus sexuality. And in this exploration, it is a huge success. Drake is a deeply talented artist with words, creating moments of outright laughter or horror with the flick of her wrist, the subtle arrangement and choice of words.
Although an abrupt and unfulfilling resolution drags it down a little, Monica Drake's first novel is an overall success. Full of wit, personality, flair, and interesting reflections, it reads like a softcore version of a Chuck Palahniuk story, toned down to a realistic level by the weighted hand of a female author. As a woman myself, I felt a genuine interest in the lead character, whose trials and troubles (although fictionally absurd) resonate deeply by means of a sharply introspective narration. I would recommend this to any woman (or man, really) who can appreciate a quirky Palahniuk-esque tale but wishes that it were possible to enjoy one without the bitter aftertaste gratuity for gratuity's sake.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
But then I decided to give the book another try, and I'm so glad that I did. The images and emotions evoked merely by the language used is reason enough to read the book. There is always a sense that there is more going on beneath the words on the page than what first appears. The narration of Nita (or Clown Girl) is witty and usually fun to read, and it is this first-person narration that finally drew me in, and once I began caring about what happened to Nita, I was hooked, and willing to accept that this novel is a complete caricature, a representation. It is one of the best-written, original, and satisfying books I have read in a long time, and I recommend it, knowing that the content will not appeal to everyone.
I have one small concern with the way one of the major themes of the novel is presented. Various internal monologues and conversations throughout the book indicate that Nita is coming to terms with the fact that she can make her own choices, that life does not or should not just happen to her.
This idea is presented attractively, if somewhat simplistically. The novel does such a good job of demonstrating (sometimes heavy-handedly) the fallacy of going too far to the opposite extreme-- that some people blame their circumstances and social situations for everything they personally do that is immoral or wrong-- that it ends up ringing somehow slightly false by not acknowledging the role that social life does play in shaping our choices and free will, especially considering the ending. Although, I found the ending and Nita's epiphany extremely empowering, realistically, it is doubtful that it would have occurred if she had not met police officer Jerrod in the opening chapter-- who not only suggested quite strongly several times that she could make different choices, but held himself out as a strong anchor of social support when she was finally ready to do so.
It is difficult to have an option in your range of choices that you are either completely unaware of or do not deem possible. Yet, because the book does not either directly or indirectly acknowledge this, it veers dangerously close to a mentality that, in part, blames victims for their own victimization. Nita is both an empowered actor, and an unfortunate victim, but she is not really given authentic credit for being either.
Despite this intellectual quibble, the book receives my high praise and should be widely read by those who are looking for something a little different.
Bravo, Monica Drake!
The book summary on the front flap totally misled me as to what the story actually was. I thought that the book was about a town called Baloneytown where everybody was a clown and 'clown girl' was just your average run of the mill clown struggling to keep up with all the other clowns around her. It's actually set in a regular town with regular people, and 'clown girl' is an artist turned clown who lives in a part of town everyone refers to as Baloneytown (because baloney is the best meat anyone in the area can afford) She's doing whatever clown gig comes her way so she can save up the money to send her clown boyfriend to clown college.
The book starts off with 'clown girl' ,or Sniffles, working just another clown gig on the side of the street. She explains how she specializes in religious balloon tying (which shows us how she is trying to do something more artistic rather than clowning with her life) the kids are too demanding, it's too hot, and when she asks for some water she is ignored because clowns aren't supposed to talk. So of course she suffers a heat stroke and falls to the ground leaving everyone, not concerned, but disappointed. (which shows us how badly her life is going) When she is saved by a cinammon scented policeman and taken to the hospital the book starts showing her life as it goes from bad to worse. She developes a strange attraction to the police officer(which is unacceptable in her neighborhood), she does her best to live with her drug dealing ex boyfriend and his new weightlifting girlfriend(though that environment gets worse and worse for her little dog Chance and herself as the new girlfriend developes a hatred for her), she severly injures herself during a private gig(which brings a mysterious "Clownophile" into her life), and her two clown buddies keep pushing her into more corporate gigs(which by the end veers dangerously close to prostitution)
So to conclude, the book is good and that's why I gave it five stars. Even though there isn't a huge plot that unfolds the more you read, if you feel like a goofy, semi-depressing story then I suggest you read Clown Girl. A very good debute by Monika Drake, I hope she hits us with something new in the future. LATE