Date of Publication: 28 December 2006
Cover Price: $14.00
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I enjoyed Juno enough to begin following Diablo Cody (nee Brook Busey) on Twitter and found her rather likable. Throw in my adoration of memoirs and it was pretty much inevitable I'd get around to reading Candy Girl.
This is a very specific memoir, concentrating exclusively on the year(-ish) that the author spent working in the Minnesota sex industry. We're aware that she grew up in Chicago, that she moved after meeting a guy online with whom she fell in love and that he has a young daughter. These things are incidental to Candy Girl and the book is all the better for it. It's not that they're less interesting, but rather that the pace here is extremely quick; it's difficult to imagine how she could have expanded the scope without presenting the reader with speedbumps or, worse, two concurrent books jockeying for our attention.
It's easy to see that this is from the same woman who scripted Juno; aside from a reference to Cheetarah from ThunderCats and even a mention of hamburger phones, there's a detached breeziness to Cody's narration that is clearly her own voice. Had this been yet another tale of exploitation and ruin, it may have held more weight but been far less interesting to read. Cody's tale isn't one of trying to bury a dysfunctional past in joyless sex or of falling prey to addiction. She is seduced by glamor, but in a practical sense as her line of work revolves around being glamorous. When she writes of spending a sizable chunk of her take-home cash on wigs and outfits, it's not because she's become vain.
Cody doesn't pass judgment on the sex trade itself, but she does have a few scathing remarks reserved for catty strippers, customers with unwelcome or unusual behavior and abusive managers. Her own self-examination is largely one of unresolved curiosity; such as how she managed to have a happy, healthy childhood and go on to finish college as a self-respecting feminist on her way to stripping.
The one aspect of her memoir that genuinely disappointed me is that she never quite seems to accept that sexuality does not, in fact, rely on conventional attractiveness. She seems on the cusp of putting this together when she discovers how important her attitude is to how successful she is on stage, but then comes a shocking remark in the coda. Reflecting on her vanilla childhood, she notes that, "I was never molested as a child, probably because I wasn't very attractive." Of course, child sexual abuse is a crime of compulsion and opportunity in which the child is simply there and vulnerable. That terribly misguided statement aside, it seems as though there's a more valuable insight into human sexuality to be found in Candy Girl than Cody is willing to find--or at least share.
You can see a list of all the music references in this memoir here.
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