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Clown Girl

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  4,576 ratings  ·  335 reviews
Drake has created a novel that blends 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 great skill.
Paperback, 297 pages
Published January 4th 2007 by Hawthorne Books (first published 2006)
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Nov 04, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: people who want to be annoyed by the book's author
Shelves: read-in-2007
i am re-writing this review & re-rating this book with a lower rating thanks to a barrage of comments from the book's author, as well as the author's obnoxious ass-kissing friends. these folks made me really stop & think about how i felt about this book, & i came to the conclusion that i liked it even less than i thought i did initially. i usually reserve my one-star ratings for true stinkers--books that made me froth with loathing. this book was just disappointing & dull. it was ...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [].)

I've talked here before concerning the surprising things I'm learning about books these days, now that I've been a daily critic myself for about nine months now, and especially two factors that more heavily influence what we think of a book than a lot of us realize -- of where we in particular are in our own lives when we read the book (in terms of age, experience, career level, etc), and also how much we've hea
Nov 30, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
Finishing this book was a real chore. I found Clown Girl to be amateurishly written with way too many run-on silly similes. The main character is never likable and I was never able to relate to her or understand why anyone would do anything she does. The far-fetched, melodramatic scenes never allowed me to get into the book at all. I could never suspend disbelief. Monica Drake is trying hard to be quirky, but the plot is essentially a conventional romantic comedy that flops on the comedy part: A ...more
Jun 04, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: contemporary
I guess Drake was making up her own genre—clown noir—or maybe I’m just not familiar with it. If she was, then she could look to Katherine Dunn as the foremother of the genre, but a mother whose teat she needs to keep suckling…as in, she’s not there yet.

It was neither subtle nor flagrantly funny. I felt like it needed to be one or the other, or a juggling act of both. I actually think it would be quite good as a movie. Then everything she tells us would be shown instead.

Basic synopsis: Clown Gir
“When life sucks, throw yourself into art.”


Nita lives in baloneytown. Her heart’s hollow and she’s lowkey depressed. She’s a clown with big clown dreams. She’s all paranoid about caulrophiles and claurophobics; these words are all over the book shot randomly everywhere.

The author has tried to paint a Kafkaesque world, where she’s dominated by her quote unquote Boyfriend and everything else. Kafka is referenced all over the book too.

Then there’s a rubber chicken.
There’s a lost dog.
There’s a
Anita Dalton
Dec 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-we-own
Drake spins a marvelous tale but the real reason I think I loved this book so much is not only that Nita speaks to me in an almost eerie way, but also because Drake inverts the traditional chick-lit story by stating outright what it is that makes these clumsy, clueless, grandiose, insecure women appealing. She makes it clear from the very title what Nita is. She’s a clown. No mincing words. Nita is a clown and Drake shows how hard it is not to be a clown when hiding behind makeup, clothes, image ...more
Jaina Bee
Jul 19, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Jaina Bee by: Kate
What an interesting experience to read a book the whole way through and not once, ever, did I like —or even care about— the protagonist. I didn't care if she got a happy ending, and, frankly, would have preferred a catastophic demise. I kept feeling like the book would deliver a good sucker punch, but it just kept loitering in the zone between odd and annoying. I couldn't even properly hate it. And this is a book about a CLOWN.

Sep 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Thursday was my first meeting back with the Oakdale Prison book group, and this was the book we discussed. I've been interested in this book since it was first released (how to deny the attraction to the rubber chicken?) and was pleased to have the chance to read it, but somewhat concerned about the dynamics of the discussion with male convicts. That's because this is something of a girl's book. Not chick-lit -- it's not about shopping or boys or ladder-climbing, but then again, it is, but not w ...more
Caitlin Constantine
Dec 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
I picked up this book with high expectations, considering that some writers I really admire and enjoy had good things to say about this book. Almost right away, I found myself irritated. I kept reading, though, because I wanted to believe that the brilliance and humor I'd heard about would appear, but it never did. At the end I found myself grasping for reasons to appreciate it, but I failed. Even the much-vaunted class/gender/social analysis did nothing for me. You mean to tell me that sometime ...more
Jennifer Graham
Jan 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
It's so hard to write a comedic novel--especially one that allows for genuine human absurdity rather than some forced ironic posturing. Clown Girl somehow finds the perfect center of black comedy: the space where the humour comes not from a diminishment or belittling of the protagonist's pain but a bottomless acceptance of it. Kafka, Chaplin, Emmet Kelly, and W.C. Fields are all invoked here, quite appropriately. Slapstick collides with existential conundra; our heroine's search for love, commun ...more
Audacia Ray
Apr 11, 2015 rated it did not like it
I am drawn to books about people living on the fringes of culture but the protagonist of this book is a twenty something down on her luck white girl living in (aka gentrifying) a "bad" (aka full of poor people of color) neighborhood and being a clown. There's a lot of hand wringing over whether she will or will not do one or both of two terrible things: date a cop she's flirting with (ohgodnoooo) and do clown fetish related sex work (obvs not an exciting moral dilemma to this reader). The writin ...more
Aug 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: artists, whores, everyone in between
Shelves: 2007books
Monica Drake worked on this book for a long, long time. Longer than most people ever work at anything. Her writing is careful, beautiful, strange, frantic, and wonderful. Clown Girl tells the story of Nita/Sniffles/Juicy Caboosey, a performance artist working as a clown who loses her boyfriend, her baby, her dog, her rubber chicken, her urine, and her mind (at times) while trying to stay true to herself and her art. Throw in a pot-growing ex-boyfriend/landlord, a friendly cop, an agent who wants ...more
Aug 08, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Angela by: Powell's
Shelves: indiespensable
I'd seen and nearly bought Monica Drake's first novel a few times in bookstores before it arrived as a Powell's Indiespensable selection. The story is a lighthearted, absurd tale of Nita/Sniffles, a woman trying to make ends meet working as a clown while dealing with a dysfunctional long-distance relationship, a lecherous ex-boyfriend landlord and his vindictive girlfriend, an agent with none of her interests in mind, and a cop who conveniently reappears to save the day whenever Nita is picked u ...more
Abandoned this about half way though. Such surrealism in novels just doesn't seem to work for me. I had no incentive to finish this to find out what happens, as I wasn't really sure what was happening as I was reading it. Such an intriguing premise, and I was enjoying it initially, but the weirdness just started to drain my attention. It was all a bit much, and none of it was written in a way that I thought was particularly special. Still really interested in picking up this authors short story ...more
Oct 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Sarah by:
Shelves: fiction
I fear, after reading the other ho-hum reviews of this book, that perhaps teaching has destroyed my brain because I was completely charmed by Clown Girl. I found Nita reminiscent of Steve Urkel in her propensity for doing the exact wrong thing predictably in every situation the novel places her, but I was rooting for her the entire time. And let me say, for the first couple pages Rex Galore shows up, I was surprised by the story. Any story that can surprise me 7/8ths from the end I consider a wi ...more
Jun 06, 2007 rated it liked it
I read this book because of Chuck Palahniuk’s recommendation. It was ok. In many places it could have been a lot stronger. The premise is far out and absurd, which can be really fun. A good example of this is Palahniuk or Douglas Coupland’s work. This book, I think, reached for that level of entertaining absurdity. However, the thing that makes the other authors work fun is that, even though it is ridiculous when you think about it, while you are reading it you are totally sold. It’s only when y ...more
May 07, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: the-black-list
This book was so disappointing.
Only a few ideas repeated over and over pointlessly: the clown ethics, how I miss my boyfriend, sickness. Once you get into the schema, you can tell 10 pages in advance what is going to happen - oh yes now she's going to get into troubles with that. It tries to be grotesque but there's not a good laugh in the whole book, nor a surprise, a strong emotion, or a tragedy. The fake ass and breasts can be funny at first, but after the image is repeated 30 times in the s
Aug 12, 2008 rated it liked it
I found myself thinking about Confederacy of Dunces about 1/4 of the way through this book. That's not a good thing, either; I hated Confederacy of Dunces. Although there are no overt parallels between Nita and Ignatius, both continued their string of self-defeating screw-ups long past the point of wearing thin. As far as I'm concerned, Nita and Ignatius will be forever labeled the most incredibly, mind-blowingly, tragically annoying characters in contemporary literature.

Yes, they're that bad.

Apr 10, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommended to Mindy by: Vegan Don
Shelves: library-book, fiction
Monica Drake did write a book, get Chuck Palahniuk to write an introduction, and find a publisher. That's more than I’ve ever done. I’ll give her that. But she didn’t hold my attention, arouse my sympathies, or teach me anything. The characters were extremely flat despite their many layers of thick clown makeup and their occasional juggling-turned-arson mishaps. Drake tries desperately hard to be quirky and cool, but the book is rather boring and completely unsatisfying in terms of language, cha ...more
Oct 22, 2015 rated it it was ok
To be honest I wasn't too crazy about Clown Girl. I didn't like the writing style or the characters. I felt quite alienated. However the premise is interesting and there are some funny bits. Disappointing imo.
Richard Thomas
Jun 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Such a wild, strange book. It was funny, dark, and oddly erotic at times, and I really enjoyed this. I had only read some of Monica's shorts prior to this, but really found this to be an entertaining, thought-provoking, and touching novel. I can't wait to see what she does next.
Apr 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: contemporary
This book in one statement: Nita spirals down into a messy slippery funnel of her world then back to redemption.

Or: Nita makes stupid decisions then gets herself into a lot of mess then stupidly tries to clean up the mess until she realizes she just needs to STOP acting, just relax, be calm, get away from people pulling her down, appreciate some people that genuinely want to help her, and fucking save her little life left.

The writing needs a little more, uhh, attention-grabbing elements, BTW. Th
Lucas Deal
Mar 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
4.0 hearts

What I love most about this book is the absurdity. You have this girl who tries to get by working as a clown, all while "juggling" a horrendous long distance relationship, a landlord that just happens to be her ex-boyfriend and his malicious girlfriend and a cop who keeps saving her from whatever petty crime she attempts next.

It's whimsical and Nita/Sniffles is certainly not picture perfect. Many reviews I've read have wanted to complain that she isn't likable, but I completely disagre
Dec 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Clown Girl is not a goofy funny novel, but it isn't supposed to be, regardless of what preconceived notions you get from the title and the picture of the rubber chicken (Plucky!) on the cover. What Clown Girl is is a great first novel from a very talented writer. I can't wait to read more of what Monica Drake has to offer. Thank you, Chuck Palahniuk, for recommending this gem.

Nita has decided she is a clown. Not a commercial sell out, but a real artist, and she's modeling herself after her absen
Dec 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Amazon has been recommending this book to me for a long time, and I finally decided to take them up on it. I should have done so a lot sooner. Man, whoever have thought Amazon would recommend me something that was actually GOOD? Considering they recommend the Spanish version of novels to me (I can't read Spanish and have never given Amazon the idea that I could), you wouldn't think so. However, "Clown Girl" makes up for all of the bad recommendations Amazon has ever given me. This is a seriously ...more
Zack Rock
Aug 18, 2008 rated it it was ok
Monica Drake never seems to allow herself to revel in the stark absurdity of her character's situations, instead opting for a humanizing approach that harms both the absurdity and humanity of the novel. She also has difficulty transforming the physical pratfalls of clowning into humorous prose, describing Sniffles actions without embellishment under the assumption that we, like her, have a history of clowning to draw from when we read such passages. The clowning should have been the author's pri ...more
Jul 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
I was obviously drawn by the rubber chicken on the cover and, primarily, the introduction by Chuck Palahniuk. This is the story of Nita (aka Sniffles the Clown) who is trying her best to maintain on the income she receives from clowning, while also trying to pay clown college tuition for her boyfriend, Rex Galore, who has been missing in action for some time. Life in Baloneytown is sometimes hilarious, sometimes brutal, but always interesting. Through brushes with the law, trips to the emergency ...more
Dec 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book, by a new novelist, sends the reader on a strange trip through Baloneytown, a section of an unamed city peopled by offbeat characters. The writing style is colorful, descriptive, action-based even when the protaganist is thinking about what she's going to do. Lots of angst, lots of symbolism, sorrow, laughter, you name it. Highly recommended, especially for people interested in writing and examining writing styles. Forward by Chuck Palahaniuk sets up the reader for a fun time.
Rebecca McNutt
May 12, 2015 rated it it was ok
I honestly didn't find this book very funny, though it claimed to be so. The predictable plot, dull characters, repetitive jokes and choppy dialogue only got on my nerves. Clown Girl really had potential to be much better than it was but if you're looking for a really good book, unfortunately it doesn't deliver.
Jan 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
A brilliantly honest, hilarious book. Clown girl doesn't have much of a life plan, but has it all worked out -- sort of. I so much wanted a happy ending for her. But the ending is completely up to her and how she handles the lemons that are perpetually lobbed at her from the peanut gallery.
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Intrigued. Worth it or not? 7 29 Aug 28, 2013 09:24AM  
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“The Buddhists say if you meet somebody and your heart pounds, your hands shake, your knees go weak, that’s not the one. When you meet your ‘soul mate’ you’ll feel calm. No anxiety, no agitation.” 29 likes
“When life sucks, throw yourself into art.” 28 likes
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