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Clown Girl: A Novelby Monica Drake
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.
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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.)
"Riffing on language and revising her jokes in nervous flurries, Nita is the most endearingly teary clown since Smokey Robinson. Grade: A-" Entertainment Weekly
"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
"Clown Girl is mesmerizing, drunk on the high wire, gorgeous and dangerous fun." Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love
"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
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
"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
"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.
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