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.