Thursday, October 13, 2016

Candy Girl by Diablo Cody

This was the second book of my week of smut, back in August -- after I read Vox, I figured I had a theme going and might as well keep it up. Diablo Cody is now a top Hollywood scriptwriter, but a decade ago, she was a wanna-be with a few things in development -- one of which was Juno, and which gave her a big success to launch that career -- and a colorfully interesting past that she mined for a memoir of her life a few years before.

That memoir is Candy Girl; that colorful past is primarily the fact that she worked as a stripper in Minneapolis for about a year in 2003-2004. She was young and at loose ends -- she clearly wanted to be a writer, but she doesn't focus on that much in this book, which is more about her desire to make some money and enjoy her twenties (in that way a lot of people have, to have some crazy years before they inevitably settle down). She had a supportive boyfriend and her "career" in a real office was both maddening and going nowhere, so she signed up for a local strip club's amateur night. She wasn't the usual type -- she was alternative rather than corn-fed blonde, slim rather than va-va-voom, brainy and self-doubting rather than brassy and outgoing -- but she didn't do too badly.

And, of course, she loved it -- the attention, the money, the sense of performance. So it turned into a second job for a while, and then an only job, when she quit that office job that she hated. She never quite considered this what she was really doing, so she bounced from one club to another, and then to working in a booth at a sex shop (which she liked the best, since the customers were always on the other side of a pane of glass).

Again, all of this happened within about a year; this wasn't a long career, just some jobs for a while. It got her into great shape, showed her a new side of life, and put her into a deeply competitive industry for a short but important stint. (How competitive? Think of it this way: a certain amount of money walks in the door of a club every night, and the people there -- dancers, bartenders, and the house itself -- are competing to grab as much of that money as they can. It's a pure zero-sum game, not unlike selling used cars.)

Eventually, of course, she got out -- that's the story here. She tried phone-sex work for a while after dancing naked lost its appeal, but it didn't quite click. So she got another real job in an office, and that's where she leaves herself at the end of this book: looking back on a year of sex work as a crazy, fun interruption in an otherwise bland, normal corporate-job life.

She doesn't say that she got out of sex work to get regular hours again so that she could write, but perhaps that was part of it. Within two years, she wrote this book and the script for Juno, and had both of them on a flightpath to release. That doesn't happen by accident; Cody was clearly focused and smart and writing diligently even during the wild stripper year. (And her prose here shows all of that -- it's wild but controlled, full of amusing metaphors and telling details. Candy Girl is a hoot to read on a sentence level as well as a crazy-stuff-going-on level.)

Memoirs can be about a whole life or a moment: this is one about a moment. Cody keeps a tight focus on the life she lived then, and the craziness of the stripper life, making Candy Girl a wonderfully amusing, sexy jaunt through one wild-hair year in the life of smart, quirky, perceptive woman.

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