#108) Book review: “Candy Girl” by Diablo Cody

For the first time in almost two years: a review of a book I’ve actually read.

I’ve been a bit of a literary slump lately and what better way to break out of it than with a memoir of stripping? I’d heard of the book that begat the career that begat “Juno” and when I saw it at a local thrift store, much as Cody did when she passed by the Skyway Lounge in Minneapolis, thought, “Why not?”

There’s no doubt that Diablo Cody has a way with words. One moment she’s deadpanning “You can’t make this up” anecdotes in a homey, Francis-McDormand-in-“Fargo” sort of way (“When I rose to exit the booth, he’d assume the down dog position and lick up the man chowder.”) The next she’s managing to sound sympathetic even as she pulls similes out of parts unknown (“The city perspires Grain Belt beer and its pale, bloated denizens…float like Wonder Bread on the lake off Hidden Beach….I found these civilian displays of nudity endearing…”) She tells one client an improvised story about being sodomized at 13 by a tennis camp instructor as punishment for her lousy backhand. When a customer tells her that she looks like his sister–with whom he’s had sex–without missing a beat, she suggests that he bring her into cover one of her shifts. Yet, as entertaining and occasionally laugh out loud funny as the book is, at ten years old, “Candy Girl” largely hasn’t stood the test of time.

In 2006, the Kardashians and Nicki Minaj weren’t yet ubiquitous; Snapchat, Grinder and selfie sticks were still years away. “Candy Girl” made a splash in this world, proving that a book can at once be literate and witty while still generously using the “C” word. Adding to the appeal was Cody’s lack of a specific platform and refusal to fall into a predictable category. Her memoir was not a shocking or mud-raking expose; though she’s been labeled a “feminist stripper” by some there are few if any feminist overtones to her writing. “Candy Girl” allowed readers to make their own opinions.

Ten years later, the book’s detached tone arguably does more harm than good. Cody seems to have expected her story to hold up on the strength of extreme sex, endless wit and the unlikely juxtaposition of two, but in a post-Miley Cyrus and “Two Girls, One Cup” world where Donald Trump may become the next president, foot fetishes and incest seem quaint. What would have made “Candy Girl” hit home in a more lasting way would have been the presence of a character who transcends the perversity like a miniature Katniss. Okay, a stripping memoir might not be the best place to look for deep character development, but it would have been nice to see Cody use her writing talent to infuse her subjects with more memorable detail. Cody the stripper/dancer is sympathetic but not interesting; she occasionally refers to her interest in stripping as “anthropological” and born from a “need for depravity” but these ideas are never developed. Her boyfriend is likable and supportive but similarly forgettable. The other strippers, managers and customers blend into each other.

Had “Candy Girl” been much longer than its 212 pages, it might have joined the ranks of “Dogtown” as one of my literary lost causes. Some books (“Islands Apart”) take a long time to read because they are slow; “Candy Girl” took me two months because it’s too fast. Cody goes from outfit to outfit, wig to wig, sex club to sex club without making any of it compelling; for all the surface details she provides about each club and each experience, the reader is left not caring. While the laughs and gasps (and it takes a lot to make me gasp) worked on an immediate level, when “Candy Girl” was out of sight, it was out of mind. Coming back to the story was never a priority.


5 Comments to “#108) Book review: “Candy Girl” by Diablo Cody”

  1. This was an interesting read and it’s great to hear what someone outside the sex industry thought of it. I finished reading Candy Girl not long ago and I must say that I agree with several of your points. Apart from Cody herself, we don’t really hear a detailed account on anyone else. There isn’t really any meaningful person to person interaction that makes you understand their character better in it. It does run a bit like a long list of personal experiences, but with poetic description.

    I enjoyed it because it reminded me of when I was getting into the stripping business and it was interesting to hear how much had changed in a decade (no one uses Brittany Spears songs as their pole songs anymore). I didn’t find any of her experiences shocking, but put that down to being a stripper myself.

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