I finished this book way back in January and it’s been sitting next to the computer, mocking me and racking up library fines. Every time I sit down to write this review, I’m immediately stuck and have no clue what to say. I have a compulsion to write my reviews in the order I read the books, so there is a stack of six books waiting and I’m about to finish two more. It’s time to get this out of the way.
Here’s the description from Goodreads:
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.
I don’t know how this book got on to my radar and made it to my TBR list. Maybe I was interested in it because it sounded so bizarre. I like weird things, and a combination of rubber chickens. clown prostitution and a place called Baloneytown seemed a good indicator of weird.
But man, I do not know what in the hell I read.
Either I wasn’t smart enough for this book or I wasn’t the right reader. It was weird, but not in a good way.
Clown Girl, aka Sniffles, lives her life by the Clown Code. She isn’t a clown. She is a Clown. Her entire being is to bring meaning to life through the seriousness of Clowning. She wants to create and make herself more than what she is through Clowning tradition and showing the audience what the truth of life is.
Along the way, everything falls apart. She meets and falls blindly in love with Rex, the clown who teaches her about Clowning. He leaves to join Clown College and she does everything she can to earn enough to move there and be with him. She doesn’t hear from him for days. Then weeks. It’s longer and longer and she knows he is becoming famous, maybe, and she knows he will come back for her.
In the meantime, she tries to figure out her next Performance. She gets arrested and is both curious and terrified of the cop that keeps rescuing her. She stays in character, even in her own mind. She becomes more and more desperate as she realizes that she might be the only Clown. Everyone else seems to use clowning as a way to make money and who cares about the rest?
The more I read, the more confused I got. At first I though this was a quest where Sniffles would climb to the top, become a true Clown and raise the audience to a better place of awareness. Or something.
Then I thought she might be crazy because no one else seemed to speak the same truth that she did. Rex made Clowning clear to her, but now he’s gone and she’s the only one who isn’t in it for the money.
A whole bunch of weird things happen and then I finished the book.
One thing I really did like was how Drake created the world. Baloneytown and clowning and Clowning was matter of fact, so that wasn’t the absurd part. Right away I was in and figured “OK, so this is how this world works.” If I had gotten stuck on the social creation of Sniffles’ world, I wouldn’t have made it very far.
So, yeah. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t like it. The reviews seem to be all over the place with people hating HATING it and other people swearing by their five star review. I give this one an “eh”.