Candy Girl makes my stomach hurt

For March, the Rock and Roll Bookclub picked Diablo Cody’s Candy Girl, a memoir about her year as a stripper/professional masturbator/phone sex operator.

You know how when you buy a bag of those little gold-foil wrapped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and the first one tastes so good that you eat about thirty-two more right in a row and while it’s all hunky dory while you’re chewing and unwrapping, once you stop your gut aches?

That’s how I feel about Candy Girl. It’s entirely too much of a good thing, ultimately making it a bad thing that pains you. Cody’s book is kind of frustrating, just like her movie, “Juno.” In her writing Cody inundates you with her wit. Both the book and the movie are filled with witty quips the monotony of the wit is only broken by some hipster pop culture reference. It’s hard to find any sort of substance in all that, well, word candy.

One of the blurbs on the back of the book applauded Cody for writing a book without any moral judgment, and while I can groove on that, the whole thing kind of smacked of bullshit. Cody moves from Chicago to Minneapolis to live with her Internet boyfriend and while working as some low-level grunt at an ad agency decides to become a stripper. She spends a year dancing at a few clubs, working as a masturbator at Sex World, and finally as a phone sex operator.

While Cody seems to turn an honest eye to the world of the sex worker, it’s her motivations and her freakishly, unrealistically supportive boyfriend that feel like a big, fat lie. Jonny, the BF, is painted as nothing but a great dad who unconditionally supports his girlfriend’s decision to flaunt her body for cash. While this may be true, it comes off as dishonest. If Cody had even spent a bit of time talking about how freakishly unreal the smooth sailing was I might buy it a little more.

And then there’s the whole reason she cooks up to explain why she, a good girl from a good home, decides to become a stripper and it’s such unmitigated bullshit that I nearly wanted to barf.

I don’t know why I expected some sort of serious reflection or substance to come at the end of the book, but I did. Maybe it’s because Cody is so obviously smart and funny. But just like the Reese’s, you aren’t gonna get anything of any value from Cody’s Candy Girl except a very fleeting bit of amusement.

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  1. Jodi 09.Feb.08 at 11:05 am

    Thank you.

  2. Max "Bunny" Sparber 09.Feb.08 at 11:30 am

    My complaint is that she deliberately paints other strippers as being as freakish as possible, without really investigating their lives or experiences. If you are going to be a dilettante, dipping your toes into the world of stripping a few days a week for less than a year, it might be nice if you actually investigated the world of full-time sex workers as being subject of something more than comic anecdotes.

  3. Jodi 09.Feb.08 at 11:51 am

    That’s a really good point. I think for her to have done that would have been cause for too much reflection or self-awareness and that’s not something she was willing to do in any depth.

    Also, after reading Candy Girl it has cemented my idea that Cody’s really good at writing about herself and it’d be interesting to see if she can write a character that’s not Diablo Cody.

  4. christa 09.Feb.08 at 1:52 pm

    nicely stated. i’m a bit torn on diablo cody. i liked juno, i agree with you on candy girl — although i didn’t think it through nearly as coherently.

    i want to like her, but there is a strong level of bullshit that she hides behind in interviews ie: david letterman and when she was on fresh air. i get exhausted for her, keeping up this snarky, “let me shock you” banter. i feel like she hasn’t figured out who she is yet, but she’s really honed what she thinks she is.

    that said, i’ll continue to watch and read her things.

  5. Peabo 09.Feb.08 at 5:57 pm

    I think you’re totally right–with the amusement and nothing more–but did she want to do more than that? It’s obvious she didn’t want to write a hard-hitting expose on the porn industry, and I don’t think she’s going to be planning a long career as a writer. Could she write another character besides Diablo Cody? Probably not, but is that a strike against her?
    I read this as I read the “Stephanie Plum” Janet Evanovich books (which of course you won’t demean yourself to read, hehe). It was a nifty little read. It won’t change my life; I don’t want to think about how much of it is true/not true/could be true. I don’t need to read it again. That’s about it.
    In terms of your ideas of the book itself–couldn’t agree more. But I think you’re looking at this book with the same eyes you’d look at Wolff or D’Ambrosio and I don’t think she’s trying to be that writer.

  6. Jodi 09.Feb.08 at 6:20 pm

    On some level I agree with you. I don’t think she’s planning a career as a novelist or an author. I also don’t think she intended to write a hard-hitting expose on the porn industry. It’s a memoir, and I went into reading it with those sorts of expecatations. I don’t expect the same thing from Cody as I would from Wolff or D’Ambrosio.

    However, as a reader I deserve a modicum of emotional honesty in a memoir. I don’t think she was honest. She probably left out the rough stuff, the bad stuff because she was entirely too busy trying to portray herself as an adventurous, hedonistic, devil-may-care wondergirl with a lot of wit.

    I could have gotten that from her blog, you know? I guess when I read a book I want something that’s more than just amusing. I want some sort of substance too.

  7. Peabo 09.Feb.08 at 8:05 pm

    Ah yes–there I agree with you. I was thinking that it didn’t really matter to me if she was honest or not–but it *should* matter to me in a memoir. Very interesting, at any rate. I wonder how someone who doesn’t live in MN would read it–a lot of what I liked was that I knew exactly the places she was talking about.


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