Clark (Stripping Down to the Bones, 2013) recounts her life’s indignities in a self-deprecating memoir.
“Pathetic” would probably not be the first term that most people would use to describe their own lives. “I like the word,” Clark writes in her introduction. “It’s not sad, it’s more like pitiful. It kind of wallows around and whines a lot, even though the whining is probably justified. It also connotes a certain obsessive cyclical pattern.” In this memoir, she includes some diary entries and essays that she wrote during her teenage years, which document her first crushes; her ambitions at 12 years old, which included, “I’d like to be a person everyone would like”; and dates. She attempts to explain her later lack of success at romance, discussing, for example, how she misunderstood certain sexual terms and made unfortunate choices in men. She tells of three different cancer scares, which included a hysterectomy, and how they affected her self-image, quality of life, and plans for the future. She also writes about why she decided to become an exotic dancer—“the Thinking Man’s Stripper”—and how that work shaped her ideas about her own sexuality, feminist identity, and American society. Clark’s prose is frenetic and engaging, combining self-referentiality, humor, deconstructionist tendencies, and even a bit of friendly antagonism toward readers: “Some people complain that my transitions are abrupt, and I jump from one episode, time frame, or topic to another, but I am merely subverting expectations and avoiding predictability, to ensure the reader that no algorithm wrote this stuff.” The narrative is largely free from the constraints of traditional structure, which only adds to the sense that the reader is inhabiting the author’s mind. Clark is insightful and funny and seems to always have a new, more surprising anecdote to share—all while tying her experiences into the larger framework of being a woman in contemporary American society. What the book occasionally lacks in polish it makes up for in raw exuberance and hard-won wisdom.
An original, wonderfully readable feminist remembrance.