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Whip Smart: A Memoir Hardcover – March 2, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Febos's candid, hard-slogging debut about her four years working as a dominatrix at a midtown Manhattan dungeon cuts a sharp line between prurience and feminist manifesto. Having grown up on Cape Cod, Mass., then dropped out of high school before moving to New York City and enrolling in the New School in the fall of 1999, Febos slipped into drug use and needed a way to finance it. An attractive law-school graduate neighbor in her Brooklyn apartment building mentioned that she worked as a domme, and Febos decided to give it a go. She spanked grown men, professionals, fathers, and rabbis, sometimes inserted enemas, sodomized them with dildos, and otherwise verbally humiliated them, all for $75 an hour, plus tips. At first, Febos managed the grueling, unsavory work while high on heroin and cocaine, and gained a tremendous sense of confidence, even invincibility at being able to justify her livelihood as one of the few well-paid acting gigs in this city. In time, she also became addicted to her job; she eventually joined AA to help get clean of drugs, but kicking her addiction to sadomasochism was harder, and in this emotionally stark, excoriating work, Febos mines the darkest, most troubling aspects of human interaction. (Mar.)
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“All memoirs are an attempt to follow a trail of breadcrumbs home, yet WHIP SMART steps off the path, into the wooded shadows, and names that part of ourselves that could linger there forever. Melissa Febos masterfully brings us into these unexpected, unsettling places, the least of which are the dungeons she so vividly—briefly—occupies. WHIP SMART is a wild, bright-eyed, ride home.”
--Nick Flynn, New York Times bestselling author of ANOTHER BULLSHIT NIGHT IN SUCK CITY
“WHIP SMART is remarkably honest, brave and provocative about growing up: the pleasures and perils of being visible, the temptations of being numb, and the weird kick of being desired.”
--Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone critic, and NY Times bestselling author of LOVE IS A MIX TAPE
“Mesmerizing. A brave, darkly wild and powerful memoir, Melissa Febos's fearless journey through drugs and dungeons into the uncharted territory of true intimacy will shock, inspire, and leave you breathless. Don’t even think about resisting."
--Rachel Resnick, author LOVE JUNKIE
“Melissa Febos takes us by the hand and leads us into a curious, disturbing, and funny world of a dominatrix, and she does so with often startlingly beautiful, expansive prose. That would be engaging enough. But what's even more gripping is Febos' fierce intelligence as she examines herself inside it. A must read for anyone interested in enlarging his or her understanding of sexual politics.”
--Kerry Cohen, author of LOOSE GIRL
"Melissa Febos writes with lacerating wit and insight into the world of the professional dominatrix, saving the sharpest sting for herself. An unsparing, deep, and dazzling read.
--Janice Erlbaum, author of GIRLBOMB & HAVE YOU FOUND HER
Top customer reviews
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But my major complaint was how she kept toting herself as this genius, and peppering the book with words to show the reader her vast vocabulary. To me the author did not come off as likable, maybe it was all that self love, or maybe the book was part of her recovery program, either way the first 2/3rds of the book is good, then put it down and go onto something else, really got tired of hearing how brilliant she is.
However, the storyline of the author's four years in the dungeon is wrapped around a bigger and much more fascinating plot: her own psychological growth. The book's title is a reference to the fact that Febos is, in fact, a highly intelligent and shrewd observer of both her inner and outer worlds. Her story begins when she is 21, a college senior with a high GPA and prestigious internship. Although she "still knew how to be good," Febos admits that "the allure of dark undersides pulled my life toward a future of increasingly fractured extremes." She pursued older lovers, both male and female, and basked in their attentions. Addicted to heroin and cocaine and eventually to sadomasochism, she found the last of these the hardest to overcome. Febos habitually lied, faked it, and playacted--for a long time, she was putting on facades that even fooled her. But every heroic story needs a turning point, one at which the crescendo of impending disaster twists on itself and transforms into a glimmer of hope that then expands. The author's moment came when she joined AA and got a sponsor. I won't be a spoiler and give away the details of her happy ending, because Febos narrates her own tale so beautifully. [Hint: However, a foretaste of her success can be found on the book's cover in her lovely photo and list of accomplishments.] This is a brave, unsparing, and deftly told story of personal redemption. Highly recommended.