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Clown Girl: A Novel

by

Clown Girl: A Novel Cover

 

Staff Pick

A famous author once said, "Characters to me, the ones I write, aren't persuasive till I can postulate what they do for a living." In her full-length debut, Monica Drake postulates into life a young woman named Nita, otherwise known as Sniffles, a freelance clown. Talk about vocation defining a character. When we meet her, Sniffles is tying balloons for kids downtown. But the summer heat (and a decided lack of nutrition) gets the best of her. She faints. Enter a cop, a rubber chicken, and Rex Galore, who ran off to clown college not long after Sniffles became pregnant with his child. Now meet Matey and Crack, Herman and Nadia-Italia. Step inside the world of Clown Girl, one of the most original and promising first novels to come out of Portland in ages.
Recommended by Kyle, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

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Publisher Comments:

Clown Girl lives in Baloneytown, a seedy neighborhood where drugs, balloon animals, and even rubber chickens contribute to the local currency. Against a backdrop of petty crime, she struggles to live her dreams, calling on cultural masters Charlie Chaplin, Kafka, and da Vinci for inspiration. In an effort to support herself and her layabout performance-artist boyfriend, Clown Girl finds herself unwittingly transformed into a "corporate clown," trapping herself in a cycle of meaningless, high-paid gigs that veer dangerously close to prostitution. Monica Drake has created a novel that riffs on the high comedy of early film stars — most notably Chaplin and W. C. Fields — to raise questions of class, gender, economics, and prejudice. Resisting easy classification, this debut novel blends the bizarre, the humorous, and the gritty with stunning skill.

Review:

"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Riffing on language and revising her jokes in nervous flurries, Nita is the most endearingly teary clown since Smokey Robinson. Grade: A-" Entertainment Weekly

Review:

"Sniffles, the titular clown girl, is endearingly self-deprecating....Clown Girl is a polished, quirky and often-funny look at the dark side of clown life." Winnipeg Free Press

Review:

"Clown Girl is mesmerizing, drunk on the high wire, gorgeous and dangerous fun." Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love

Review:

"Clown Girl is more than a great book. Clown Girl is its own reality. We should all have an arch enemy this brilliant." Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club

Review:

Clown Girl is an extreme novel...a hilarious book that asks the startling question: what does it mean to be serious about clowning?" Peter Rock, author of The Unsettling

Review:

"The word 'unique' is widely abused but I think, for once, it's justified: this novel is not much like anything else, and all the better for it. A really exciting debut." Kevin Canty, author of Winslow in Love

Review:

"I have no doubt that Drake will be big — maybe as big as former classmates, even. So please, no matter how cautious you are about this one, give it a go. Judge it on its own merits. I guarantee you that it'll be worth your while." Fancy Pants, Incorporated

About the Author

Monica Drake has an MFA from the University of Arizona and teaches at the Pacific NW College of Art. She is a contributor of reviews and articles to the Oregonian, the Stranger, and the Portland Mercury and her fiction has appeared in the Beloit Fiction Review, Threepenny Review, The Insomniac Reader, and others. She has been the recipient of an Arizona Commission on the Arts Award, the Alligator Juniper Prize in Fiction, and a Millay Colony Fellowship, and was a Tennessee Williams scholar at Sewanee Writers Workshop.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 4 comments:

lukas, May 3, 2014 (view all comments by lukas)
"Gacy. 'That guy ruined the gig for a lot of clowns.'" Things are tough in Baloneytown, especially for a serious clown who can tie balloon animals into Biblical figures and scenes. Monica Drake, who emerged from Tom Spandauer's "dangerous writing" club, along with Chuck Palahniuk, has a very peculiar and dark sense of humor, reminiscent of both Palahniuk and Kathleen "Geek Love" Dunn. It also taught me the meaning of the word "coulrophilia," which is attraction to clowns.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Jennifer Graham, January 2, 2011 (view all comments by Jennifer Graham)
It's so hard to write a comedic novel--especially one that allows for genuine human absurdity rather than some forced ironic posturing. Clown Girl somehow finds the perfect center of black comedy: the space where the humour comes not from a diminishment or belittling of the protagonist's pain but a bottomless acceptance of it. Kafka, Chaplin, Emmet Kelly, and W.C. Fields are all invoked here, quite appropriately. Slapstick collides with existential conundra; our heroine's search for love, community, family, and art are all ennobled by the patent ridiculousness of her life.

Did I mention it's really damn funny?

Don't be fooled by the wacky premise; this isn't a gimmick kind of book. Yes, it pivots around the world of clowning; and yes there is a heartbreaking quest for a lost rubber chicken; and yes our heroine does get involved in the seamy coulrophiliac underbelly of Baloneytown; and yes, there is a mystery involving stolen pee. It's a comedy, after all. But like all the best comedy it invites both the sympathy and the intellect to come out to play.
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(6 of 9 readers found this comment helpful)
hotpants, January 4, 2010 (view all comments by hotpants)
Well written and engaging. This book kept me turning the page long after bedtime.
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(9 of 16 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 4 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780976631156
Author:
Drake, Monica
Publisher:
Hawthorne Books
Introduction by:
Palahniuk, Chuck
Introduction:
Palahniuk, Chuck
Author:
Palahniuk, Chuck
Subject:
General
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Clowns
Subject:
Women performance artists
Subject:
Black humor (Literature)
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
February 2007
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
297
Dimensions:
8.98x5.56x.64 in. .90 lbs.

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Related Subjects

» Featured Titles » General
» Featured Titles » Literature
» Featured Titles » Staff Favorites
» Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Clown Girl: A Novel New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$15.95 In Stock
Product details 297 pages Hawthorne Books - English 9780976631156 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

A famous author once said, "Characters to me, the ones I write, aren't persuasive till I can postulate what they do for a living." In her full-length debut, Monica Drake postulates into life a young woman named Nita, otherwise known as Sniffles, a freelance clown. Talk about vocation defining a character. When we meet her, Sniffles is tying balloons for kids downtown. But the summer heat (and a decided lack of nutrition) gets the best of her. She faints. Enter a cop, a rubber chicken, and Rex Galore, who ran off to clown college not long after Sniffles became pregnant with his child. Now meet Matey and Crack, Herman and Nadia-Italia. Step inside the world of Clown Girl, one of the most original and promising first novels to come out of Portland in ages.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Riffing on language and revising her jokes in nervous flurries, Nita is the most endearingly teary clown since Smokey Robinson. Grade: A-"
"Review" by , "Sniffles, the titular clown girl, is endearingly self-deprecating....Clown Girl is a polished, quirky and often-funny look at the dark side of clown life."
"Review" by , "Clown Girl is mesmerizing, drunk on the high wire, gorgeous and dangerous fun."
"Review" by , "Clown Girl is more than a great book. Clown Girl is its own reality. We should all have an arch enemy this brilliant."
"Review" by , Clown Girl is an extreme novel...a hilarious book that asks the startling question: what does it mean to be serious about clowning?"
"Review" by , "The word 'unique' is widely abused but I think, for once, it's justified: this novel is not much like anything else, and all the better for it. A really exciting debut."
"Review" by , "I have no doubt that Drake will be big — maybe as big as former classmates, even. So please, no matter how cautious you are about this one, give it a go. Judge it on its own merits. I guarantee you that it'll be worth your while."
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