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Clown Girl: A Novel Paperback – January 4, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From 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. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

An introduction by novelist Chuck Palahniuk and a rubber chicken on the cover promise lots of nervous laughs for Drake's dark debut. The tale revolves around Nita (aka Sniffles the Clown), who inhabits Baloneytown, a depressed, crime-infested metropolis where residents peer warily out their windows when a cop car drives by. Nita aspires to high art but finds herself caught in a vicious cycle of corporate clown gigs that creep ever closer to prostitution. She misses her boyfriend (and fellow clown) Rex Galore, who has gone off to interview at Clown College. And now her dog has gone missing, her relationship with her housemates is on the skids, and the only friend she has left is a golden-haired policeman who is surprisingly concerned about her well-being. Drake, who teaches at Pacific Northwest College of Art, renders rich, sinewy prose (with heady references to Chaplin, Kafka, da Vinci, and the like), but her offbeat subject matter and plot would play better as a short story. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Hawthorne Books; 1st edition (January 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0976631156
  • ISBN-13: 978-0976631156
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #94,481 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Monica Drake is the author of Clown Girl, a novel. Her stories and essays have appeared in magazines such as the Sun, Beloit Fiction Review, Oregon Humanities Magazine, Northwest Review, and She once wrote an entire issue of "The Stranger," a free weekly newspaper in Seattle, which flooded the city. She's now at work on a second novel.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Mark Eremite VINE VOICE on December 26, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Monica Drake is a decent writer. She plays with the language the way clowns play with pratfalls and cream-filled pastries. There's no doubting that among the pages of "Clown Girl" is hiding an author with enough charm and wit to pen a book brimming with both humor and heart.

This, however, is not that book.

The story follows young Nita (you can call her Sniffles) who is struggling to make ends meet. Working the circuit in her home land of Baloneytown, Nita twists balloons into vague religious shapes, tries to find her lost rubber chicken and her drug-addicted dog, and deals with the absence of her beloved, a man named Rex Galore (he's away at Clown College, paid for by guess who?). The only thing is, Nita's got a heart problem (uh, ahem, an actual, physical heart problem), and so she's working fewer hours, earning less money, and her ex-boyfriend/landlord is threatening to kick her out of house and home. Add to the mix a cinnamon-scented copper with a stalkerish streak, and you've got more problems than a clown should have to deal with.

Drake shows us Nita's struggles through her daisy-shaped sunglasses, so those difficulties are all tinted with a painted smirk and lots of punny rejoinders. It's a silly-serious mood that works quite well at first, but which begins to grate more and more as the novel devolves into soap opera theatrics. By the final pages, what is meant to be funny is as eye-rolling as any knock-knock joke, and what is meant to be serious is just plain laughable.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By M. Hawks on March 2, 2007
Format: Paperback
Monica Drake is a good writer and very clever but that cleverness becomes a bit cloying. Certain topics - for instance, "Pluckie," the rubber chicken - lose their funniness and become more like water torture by the end of the novel. But clowns are known for overkill and Clown Girl is rife with it.

The book is well written and there are genuinely funny parts. If the reader has been searching for material that nominally deals with clown prostitution and clowns getting pregnant, then maybe this is the book you've been searching for. But for out and out weirdness, nothing touches Geek Love.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Martha Atlanta on June 11, 2008
Format: Paperback
There are a number of places that are laugh out loud funny in this offbeat first novel. I, too, found this book because I loved Geek Love so much. Indeed, it does not stand up to that book for depth of plot or character, but it is an entertaining read. As others have said, this feels like it started life as a short story and probably would work best in that format, or perhaps a novella, but I did enjoy it nonetheless. Some of the characters and story elements are a bit cliche, but it's a breath of fresh air from all the bestseller stuff that takes itself so seriously. If you like quirky and oddball, this one's for you.

I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next. Speaking of which, where's Katharine Dunn with a successor to Geek Love?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ksuzy on November 22, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I did not expect to like this book; the opening chapter is surprisingly alienating. This is due to the fact that there is so little for a reader to hang onto that resembles anything remotely familiar, and I actually put the book down and read another one after reading that first chapter.

But then I decided to give the book another try, and I'm so glad that I did. The images and emotions evoked merely by the language used is reason enough to read the book. There is always a sense that there is more going on beneath the words on the page than what first appears. The narration of Nita (or Clown Girl) is witty and usually fun to read, and it is this first-person narration that finally drew me in, and once I began caring about what happened to Nita, I was hooked, and willing to accept that this novel is a complete caricature, a representation. It is one of the best-written, original, and satisfying books I have read in a long time, and I recommend it, knowing that the content will not appeal to everyone.

I have one small concern with the way one of the major themes of the novel is presented. Various internal monologues and conversations throughout the book indicate that Nita is coming to terms with the fact that she can make her own choices, that life does not or should not just happen to her.

This idea is presented attractively, if somewhat simplistically.
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31 of 41 people found the following review helpful By petaloka on March 23, 2007
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Chuck has nothing to worry about here. While Drake has a great voice and a vivid imagination this book just ran out of steam. It probably would have worked better as a short story. I found Nita's self-imposed hardships to be quite grating after about 100 pages and there were still 200 pages of the same to go. It all got a bit repetitious and obvious after awhile. I also didn't find the book funny. I didn't laugh once. I have to add that I am in no way the sharpest tool in the shed but even I saw the ending coming a mile away.
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