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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 In Their Shoes Blog

After reading this book, I feel the need to justify why I wanted to read it so much. If you'll recall, I blogged about reserving it at the library back in January. 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.

8 comments:

Debi said...

I actually think I'd like to read this one. My brother-in-law lived with a girl for quite a few years who stripped for a living. She always swore she loved it. But from some of the stories she told, it certainly wasn't all good.

Rhinoa said...

I have been meaning to give this a go but haven't yet got a copy. I am definitely interested to read her account of life as a stipper and I loved Juno. I did a beginners pole dancing class as it seemed an interesting way to get a little more in shape and do hope to get a pole to practise on at home when I find space to put it up... I did go to a couple of strip clubs after the course to see how it is done in a professional way rather than a keep fit way which was enlightening. I talked to a couple of the girls and one was doing it to fund herself going to nursing school.

Rebecca said...

My usually wonderful and expansive library does not have this yet! I'm very annoyed. I am looking forward to reading it.

J. Kaye Oldner said...

Wow...your review moved me...more like stunned me into silence.

Wow...

Andi said...

I wanna read this one and I'm not afraid to admit it!!!! Like I need another reason to detest the sex industry. lol

Alice Teh said...

I think I'm going to read this if I can get my hands on a copy... Thanks for the review!

Trish said...

I've seen this around and been curious about it. I loved Juno (um, except that I saw it with my sisters, step-mom, and DAD). He grumbled the entire time--don't think he really knew what it was about! ;) Sounds like an interesting book, but maybe one to check out from the library instead of buy? I'm not typically sqweemish, but I guess it just depends.

Kim L said...

debi-well this book certainly tells it like it is, and you'll get the story on what stripping is all about.

rhinoa-wasn't Juno good?? And yeah you would probably like this book! I have never done a stripping class, but I am willing to bet it gives you great abs!

rebecca-I had to wait forever to get it from the library! Maybe interlibrary loan?

J. Kaye-well I hope that isn't a bad thing!

andi-well I bet you would like this book then. It is definitely an interesting read.

alice teh-no problem and I hope you like it!

trish-It's a good book to read, but in my opinion, I wouldn't have purchased it for myself. Then again, I don't buy very many books.