Title: Clown Girl
Rating: 2 Stars
I had really high hopes for this book. It’s about a professional clown living in Baloneytown. I thought that this was going to be an edgy, thought-provoking social comedy using the absurd premise of a clown town being the lens through which to view it. And maybe a little Roger Rabbit thrown in.
Alas, it was a quite pedestrian tale of an stereotypically emotionally overwrought woman looking for love.
It’s the story of Nita, otherwise known by her clown nom de plume of Sniffles.
She is indeed a professional clown and is pretty much constantly in clown makeup for nearly the entire book. The love of her life, Rex Galore, himself a clown of some renown, the father of her unborn child, is temporarily away trying to make it big in San Francisco.
Nita has recently had a miscarriage, which has left her traumatized. She’s desperately trying to reach out to Rex for support, who is unresponsive to her plaintive calls.
This leads her to neglect her body, she faints while blowing up balloons, and ends up in the emergency room, where a local cop named Jerrod takes an interest in her.
This is a problem because Baloneytown is on the wrong side of the tracks. The man that she rents a room from is selling drugs. Those two facts makes it very awkward for Nita when Jerrod the cop increasingly starts showing up uninvited.
In the meantime, she has two other clown friends who are constantly trying to lure her into working business events for large sums of money. However, this is considered corporate clowning, while she considers herself a purist.
Who will Nita choose to be with? Will it be Rex the glamorous yet caddish clown or the gentle Jerrod that’s always looking out for her? Will she sell her soul and become a corporate clown, or to make the selling out imagery even more blatant, join one of her friends to become a clown hooker?
I can see that the book is aspiring to be something larger. It’s about art vs money. It’s about prejudice against a certain type of people (eg clowns) exclusively for how they look. It’s about the revulsion and attraction that people feel for the forbidden.
It’s this last part that’s kind of offensive. It is clearly making the point that lust of clowns and fear of clowns are deeply interwoven concepts. Unless I’m totally missing out, it seems to be using clowns as a stand-in for race. Comparing the centuries long torturous relationship that white men have had with black women via this metaphor is at best problematic.
Even with these grand ideas, the execution is just so blah.
Baloneytown isn’t anything special. It’s just a poor part of the city. Nita is playing the part (at least to Jerrod) of the manic pixie dream girl (girl is all messed up, slightly goofy, gets into silly escapades, needs a man to help her out). The whole romantic triangle tension totally blows up when Rex completely turns into a cad and actually blames Nita for her miscarriage. There is no conflict for her to work through. She is done with Rex and ends up with Jerrod.
So, at the end of the day, it could have easily been a mundane rom-com that Meg Ryan, at her peak, could have done while in a coma (with, of course, a young Tom Hanks as the earnest Jerrod and possibly Hugh Grant as Rex the cad).