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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Clark, February 24, 2009 (view all comments by Clark)
I thought this book was very entertaining. It is highly creative and well written. Monica Drake definitely has a real talent, Clown Girl is evidence of her abilities. I am looking forward to her next book.
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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 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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
by Entertainment Weekly,
"Riffing on language and revising her jokes in nervous flurries, Nita is the most endearingly teary clown since Smokey Robinson. Grade: A-"
by Winnipeg Free Press,
"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."
by Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love,
"Clown Girl is mesmerizing, drunk on the high wire, gorgeous and dangerous fun."
by Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club,
"Clown Girl is more than a great book. Clown Girl is its own reality. We should all have an arch enemy this brilliant."
by Peter Rock, author of The Unsettling,
Clown Girl is an extreme novel...a hilarious book that asks the startling question: what does it mean to be serious about clowning?"
by Kevin Canty, author of Winslow in Love,
"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."
by Fancy Pants, Incorporated,
"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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