Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Review of the Day: Clown Girl

Clown Girl by Monica Drake (published by Hawthorne Books & Literary Arts).
Monica Drake writes about a city very much like any city – except that in her city, clowns really matter. Although her clowns share a level of urban society with dope dealers, prostitutes, and sundry petty criminals, they play an extraordinarily large role in society. Not only do they provide entertainment at children’s parties, corporate shindigs, and street fairs, the police deal with a rash of clown bashing – blame the coulrophobes – and other clown-related crimes, and the clowns themselves are constantly on the alert for overly-zealous coulrophiles who could quickly turn from innocent fetishists to stalkers. For apparent reasons, clown prostitution is a temptation as well as a civic problem.

Nita – or Sniffles, to use her clown name – is Clown Girl, the heroine of the piece. She works soul-killing corporate gigs to fund her boyfriend’s clown college try-outs, and tries to focus on her [clown] art, find her missing dog, not get evicted, and shake an overly-friendly policeman.

There are a couple of negative aspects to the book. The first is a matter of preference and has nothing to do with the quality of the writing or the story. Nita is dirty – not in a metaphysical sense, but physically dirty. She is always in greasy clown make-up, it is hot and she is sweaty, and she spends a lot of time pawing through or lying in piles of unlaundered costume parts. The need for her to have a good scrubbing is distracting.

The second is a matter of editing. There is one too many of every scene. There is one too many scenes involving the cop rescuing Nita, the cop trying to convince Nita that they are both outsiders, Nita’s neighbors ostracizing her because she is spending time with a cop, and Nita denying that she is dating a cop. There is one too many scenes of Nita arguing with her clown agent about selling out as a sexy clown and denying that she is a clown prostitute. There is one too many scenes where Nita removes her clown i.d., picture of her dead parents, and/or picture of her clown boyfriend, Rex Galore, from her sweaty, polka-dot bra. The whole thing needed a stricter hand with the red pen.

Despite these flaws, Clown Girl is quirkily entertaining. Drake is clever and she has created a self-contained world where her story makes sense. She is also very funny. She is funny with words and with the way she juxtaposes her clown-world with the real world. There is a dark edge to her humor, though, and it is touch and go whether the book will end in smiles or tears.

(If you would like your review listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.)


  1. It sounds hilarious in principle but yes it is always disappointing when a book has not been edited enough.

    Interesting review, thanks for sharing


  2. Hannah -- I really did enjoy this book. There were just some moments when I felt like, "Yeah, I get it, move it along." But it was fresh and different, so I am glad I read it.

  3. I remember when I first read about this book on your blog and you were unsure as to whether or you would like it. I am glad you did--I have added this to my TBR list....

  4. Julie -- There was a while there when I thought it could take a turn for the dark. But, without spoiling the story, I can say that it had a happy ending, which is why I liked it.


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