Manny's Reviews > Musical Chairs

Musical Chairs by Jen Knox
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's review
Nov 20, 2009

liked it
bookshelves: too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts, command-performance, received-free-copy
Read in November, 2009

Jen kindly sent me a copy of this book to review, and I zipped through it in a couple of days. The story begins in an AA meeting, and it reads rather like a series of episodes told in front of an AA audience. I also have an addictive/compulsive personality, so I'm sympathetic; the AA sequences in Infinite Jest were the part I liked best. When you've fucked up big-time, sharing the experience with other people seems to be a positive thing to do. Maybe I should try this, but it's not as easy as it looks. I thought of writing the review in parody-homage style, telling a similar story about how I'd fucked things up in my own life at some point, and found I couldn't do it. Jen's got more courage than me; good for her. But maybe I'll learn something from her account.

The basic story is, I suppose, unremarkable, but it's well told, and I kept turning the pages to see what would happen next. Jen grows up in a bad part of town; her parents fight, and divorce when she's about 15; she runs away from her father, who's been given custody, and gets into drink and drugs; after a while, she lands herself a job as a stripper. Later, she has to put her life back together again. I liked her descriptions of stripping, which are insightful and sensitive. It's demeaning in some ways (duh), but, something I hadn't properly understood before, it's also empowering. Jen compares it with writing. David Lodge does that too, in Small World; but I'm pretty sure that he's never worked as a stripper, and I prefer Jen's version, even though Lodge's is slicker. One point she makes is that it's much easier to do this kind of thing drunk. Perhaps I should have a few drinks myself some evening, and see if that helps me write in a new way.

I should say that I've never met Jen, despite the fact that I keep using her first name, but after reading her book I feel I know her well. She's a nice person, and has worthwhile things to tell you. Definitely one of the more interesting and memorable books I've read this year.

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Reading Progress

11/20/2009 page 3
11/22/2009 page 50
28.41% "This is really quite engaging! Jen's had a most interesting life, and she's still only 15..."
11/23/2009 page 85
48.3% "Jen's first day as a stripper. It comes across as totally authentic."
11/24/2009 page 135
76.7% "Jen tries to get her life back on track. People say they want to help, but aren't always what they seem."

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Manny As I said, I thought you were impressively brave. Kudos!

And I don't know how I managed not mention that you were a fellow chessplayer. I loved those bits :)

message 2: by Jen (new) - added it

Jen Knox my comment disappeared, too... perhaps it's a sign--authors should not comment on the critiques of their work. we should merely listen, continue to produce. hmmmm.... I wonder if any of my other comments have disappeared

message 3: by Natalie (new) - added it

Natalie Manny & Jen, -what a nice compliment when Manny writes: The basic story is, I suppose, unremarkable, but it's well told"

I think that might be one of the most complimentary things that could be said of any story told about how the everyday adds up to the story of people's lives?

This book is going on my to-reads list!

Thanks to you both!


message 4: by Jen (new) - added it

Jen Knox Thank you, Natalie. A memoirist has to appreciate those reviews of the storytelling and writing. It's so much more common to get personal critiques/responses, which, is what we sign up for, I suppose... Manny is indeed an astute reviewer, and he's ridiculously intelligent. His reviews have made my to-read list much longer as well :)

Manny Jen, you're so nice. Most of the people I hang out with just say I'm ridiculous, but you went the extra mile.

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