Ali's Reviews > Still Life With Brass Pole

Still Life With Brass Pole by Craig Machen
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's review
Jun 15, 2011

it was amazing

Bottom line: I highly recommend this book! An expertly crafted memoir by Craig Machen, STILL LIFE WITH BRASS POLE chronicles a teenager's journey through unsettling family dysfunction, and the domino effect it has on his young life. Immediately engaging with candid, funny and fearless prose, Machen paints incredibly visceral moments peppered with wisdom; the kind only possible after years of distance and maturity.

The narrative opens with the 16 year old author's dilemma: accept his father's coked-up invitation to a nudie bar, or stay true to his High School sweetheart back home. "God I love nudity! But I love you so much more..." And so begins his dive down the strip club rabbit hole, where he eventually works and navigates intense personal relationships with several dancers.

As a skinny kid who was beat up by the football team and his stepfather, Machen finds confidence in bodybuilding. His new hero, Arnold Schwarzenegger, teaches him to visualize. "I see myself as an invincible mountain of muscles whom no man dares to cross, and no woman dares to leave... " which may be the crux of the story. After being abandoned and abused in unthinkable ways, Machen's goals make sense: to protect himself (and others), and to somehow create relationships guaranteed to last. Of course, immersed in a world of drinking, cocaine, pot, steroids and strippers, he has his work cut out for him.

Although I personally have not frequented "naked lady emporiums," I was surprised at how easy it was to relate to Machen's experiences. Whatever messy situation he's into, his intentions are good, and thus he is a joy to root for. And thankfully, he does triumph! "I want to express myself in a way that's interesting to others, and hopefully make my living in the process," he says, as he ultimately finds inspiration in a comedy club job. Well, one only has to read his author bio to see this goal has been achieved. In his screenwriting career, Machen has worked for every big studio in Hollywood, while also managing to pen his first, beautiful memoir. But STILL LIFE WITH BRASS POLE is less about a professional quest than a personal one, and in that sense, the uplifting conclusion is sure to satisfy anyone wise enough to read the entirety of this poignant, heartfelt tale.
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