Saturday, May 3, 2008

Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper

Author: Diablo Cody
Reason for Reading: In Their Shoes Reading Challenge

Also posted at Bold. Blue. Adventure.

The book is about how Diablo Cody (the genius behind Juno) went from working a normal 9-5 job at a copy-ad agency to becoming a stripper. At the time she impulsively switched careers, she was living in Minnesota, my home state. So I knew the book was set in Minnesota, and of course I knew it was about stripping, but I was perhaps a bit naive about the sex industry, since my closest encounter with it is walking past an upscale strip joint on the way to a favorite Irish pub. So that's my excuse as to why I was reading a book about a stripper. Naivete.

I am naive no more. After she is finally burnt out with stripping, Diablo describes the stripping scene as:

"Hundreds of girls on the floor at some clubs, all reduced to begging dogs for an army of smug little emperors. The rules of attraction were reversed at a strip club. Girls that could halt midday traffic at Nicollet Mall were rejected by fat guys wearing Zubaz. Joe Punchcard with $20 could toy with several dancers over the course of an afternoon, finally selecting the one who'd receive the dubious privilege of entertaining him for three and a half minutes.... It's like a girl buffet."

Now granted, throughout most of the book Diablo finds stripping hard work but a definite thrill. She is drawn to an "Amateur Night" sign at a seedy dive and first gets a taste. Soon she finds herself working 2 nights a week at Schiek's (incidently the very same upscale strip joint that I walk past on the way to the pub) while still holding down her regular job. Eventually she quits her day job and gets into stripping full time, eventually working at the peep show in Sex World (another Minneapolis institution that I've driven past frequently).

So what is the book about? (besides stripping of course). It's a fish-out-of-water story. It's about the various people, some funny, some nice, some disgusting, that Diablo encountered while stripping. It's about what actually goes on behind the scenes at the strip clubs. It's about her journey from seeing stripping as her last chance to rebel against convention to finally burning out and leaving the business just as suddenly as she entered it. Diablo is a very funny, sarcastic writer.

"At a strip joint... a new girl might as well don veal underwear and dance the Watusi through a gauntlet of jackals. Most veteran strippers are punch-drunk on Haterade and they'd sooner dredge their Vuitton clutch in a cow pie before mustering a pixel of common courtesy toward their fellow woman."

Throughout the book, Diablo continues to try and explain what made her stick with stripping. The main things are the money and just getting a thrill out of doing something as un-normal as her life up to this point has been normal.

She doesn't romanticize stripping or shy away from showing what it is really like. This was just my take, but her descriptions of how the whole thing worked made me more sad than anything. As Diablo quickly learned, the line between strippers and prostitutes is thin at times. The best money is made by taking customers to private booths and simulating sex. While strippers can make a great deal of money in a night, they pay a large cut to the house. She describes meeting the owner of one of the stripjoints and realizing that the outlandish cuts she's been paying out have been lining his pocket much more than her own. Though she never uses the word exploitation in her book, it was clear from her book that it is the whole premise of a strip club.

Do I recommend this book? Yes and no. Definitely no if anything in my review made you squeamish, because I have not even come close to describing some of the most graphic parts of her book. Yes, if you like Diablo Cody's sense of humor in Juno and if the premise is appealing to you. For the second book review in a row, I can't possibly hope to rate this one accurately. I thought it was excellently written, but the subject matter got to me after a while. Despite that, I will say that I'm glad I read it.

1 comment:

N.Vasillis said...

Your review is so great! I still haven't seen Juno (I know I'm like the only person in the world), but I will put this book on my TBR list.