Stripper Lessons

Stripper Lessons

4.5 12
by Maureen O'Brien
     
 

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John O'Brien's books have established him as a writer who communicated the voice of the loner with blistering realness and unmistakable force. In Leaving Las Vegas, he wove a love story of incredible passion among two lost souls. In The Assault on Tony's, he unfolded a psychological drama among five drunks who spend their last days barricaded in a bar. Stripper… See more details below

Overview

John O'Brien's books have established him as a writer who communicated the voice of the loner with blistering realness and unmistakable force. In Leaving Las Vegas, he wove a love story of incredible passion among two lost souls. In The Assault on Tony's, he unfolded a psychological drama among five drunks who spend their last days barricaded in a bar. Stripper Lessons is perhaps O'Brien's most interior and intense book, a powerful story of a man's obsessive search to belong.

In Stripper Lessons, O'Brien details the dark and simple life of Carroll, a middle-aged, unmarried, friendless man whose only joy is watching beautiful women dance. Terribly shy and unable to socially: with the people around him, Carroll's fascination with the women at his favorite club is totally innocent; his desire for them is the desire to be connected. There, he finds solace in the routine, the rules, and the predictability of the action; inside, a dollar or two will win him affection. But when his desire for a particular dancer takes him one step too far, his entire life threatens to crumble.

As he did in Leaving Las Vegas O'Brien has given life to the outcast and captured the hope and truthfulness that even the most simple lives are built on.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
When the author of Leaving Las Vegas died in 1994, he left three books in various stages of completion. One, The Assault on Tony's, was published last year. In this second novel, O'Brien gives us another portrait of a loner, essentially a man with no story. He covers a week in the life of Carrolla file clerk at a law firm who is single, middle-aged, friendless and obsessed with the strippers at Indiscretions, where he passes his nights. Unfortunately, the plot is narrow and, like Carroll, never really goes anywhere. That this is probably what O'Brien intended to convey doesn't make the novel any more entertaining. The narrative remains mired in the fact that Carroll remains mired in himself. He does reach out, awkwardly and painfully, to Stevie, one of the strippers, because he thinks she's an angel"a window to a nicer place." But nothing comes of that attempt. O'Brien provides a detailed description of the ritualized behavior of strip clubs, but the best scenes are those that center around Carroll's office, where the clerk's paranoia reaches a crescendo as he searches for a missing file that becomes emblematic of his life. His past history never comes into play, however. He's an everyman, the lonely, defeated, solopsistic little guy. One keeps reading in the hope that he will do something to break the monotony of his life, but when the climax finally comes it's a tremor rather than an earthquake. (July) FYI: Grove/Atlantic will publish O'Brien's third posthumous work, as yet untitled, at some future date.
Library Journal - Library Journal
Another Academy AwardR winner for the late O'Brien, who wrote Leaving Las Vegas? Here, a shy, lonely man finds comfort in watching beautiful women strip.
Kirkus Reviews
When O'Brien's first novel, Leaving Las Vegas (1991), became a hit movie, making his reputation as a chronicler of social misfits, his early death (196994) was properly mourned. But, sadly, this addition to his small body of work, while it reminds us of his distinctively harsh vision of life, is not a repeat of that earlier book.

Mild-mannered Carroll has two things going in his life: his day job as head file clerk in a conniving L.A. law firm, and his nightly refuge, Indiscretions, a stripper club that draws him like a moth to a flame. All but invisible in both places, he begins to metamorphose suddenly one night when a new dancer, Stevie, enters the club and becomes the object of his obsession. Too shy to talk to her at first, by the second night he's mustered just enough courage to request a private dance with her, which, even though it takes all his money, gives him a taste of heaven and the conviction that Stevie is an angel. The next step for Carroll is to buy a new wardrobe, one that he thinks will impress her, but as his confidence builds and more contact with her makes her friendlier toward him, he inadvertently crosses the line that separates them, violating the club's rules of conduct with immediate, devastating results. Now wild in his desperation, he refuses to go back to his cocoon of meekness, first confronting another dancer in the club, then the powers-that-be in the firm, deliberately crossing the line each time, and finally walking away from his job to see if he can't salvage some hope of friendship with Stevie—who responds not unkindly to his need.

The club world, distilled to its seedy essence, and O'Brien's acknowledged grasp of lonely lives, male and female, are impressive. But the essential element of character chemistry never clicks here, so that plot contrivance and cool observation remain mostly visible for what they are.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802135070
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
06/28/1997
Pages:
192
Sales rank:
848,143
Product dimensions:
5.74(w) x 8.26(h) x 0.56(d)

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