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Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl

Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl

3.4 45
by Tracy Quan

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Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl is a wonderfully intelligent, sexually frank, rollicking novel that introduces us to Nancy Chan, a turn-of-the-millennium call girl who lives and works on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Nancy is full of contradictory desires; she frequently has to choose between making love and making money. On good days, she gets to do both


Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl is a wonderfully intelligent, sexually frank, rollicking novel that introduces us to Nancy Chan, a turn-of-the-millennium call girl who lives and works on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Nancy is full of contradictory desires; she frequently has to choose between making love and making money. On good days, she gets to do both. Surrounded by devoted, wealthy, and powerful johns, some of whom want more than just sex, and caught between two all-consuming call girl friends who complicate her life, Nancy navigates the tricky currents of the world’s oldest profession. With one foot in the bedrooms of her rich and demanding clients and one in the straight world of her unwitting fiancé, who has started to apartment-hunt and arrange a wedding, Nancy keeps her two worlds from colliding in her inimitable style.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A high-heeled walk on the wild side, Tracy Quan’s Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl is a nifty trick of a first novel, combining sexual slapstick with luxury-goods, hotel-lobby sociology, exposing female vanity and male self-delusion with equal aplomb. Juggling cell-phone calls and quirky clients, Quan’s Nancy Chan is like a Henry Miller heroine with the meter running, bouncing from one trampoline event to another while always keeping an eye on the bottom line. What will shock many is not the explicit play-by-play action but the knockabout, offhand humor–that’s what shocked people about Henry Miller, too. No artificial sweeteners here: Quan’s adventures in the skin trade deliver a cocktail kick.”
–James Wolcott, author of The Catsitters

“Nancy Chan is a working girl I can totally relate to, recognize–and imagine sharing my clients with. Addictive, entertaining, and fun to read, this book tells it like it is. Tracy Quan reveals trade secrets and shatters a lot of myths, while creating an accurate picture of what it’s like to be a New York call girl at the turn of the millennium.”
–Xaviera Hollander, author of The Happy Hooker

"If you want to know the secrets of the trade, pick this one up." —Jackie Collins

"New York's latest literary sensation" —The Independent

"Frank, fizzy, and not for the faint-hearted." —Mail on Sunday

"Her sex scenes are delightful" —The Times (London)

"A sassy read about a sparky New Yorker trying to juggle her professional and private life...a startling debut." —The Mirror

Publishers Weekly
In timely step with stories glorifying characters created for video games, Quan's semi-autobiographical novel takes readers by the hand (and various other appendages) at the tail end of call girl Nancy Chan's career. Chan (whom Quan created for her Salon online column) is a "successful" (read: expensive) prostitute who spends more time listing her favorite clothes, restaurants and cosmetic tips than even Bret Easton Ellis did in American Psycho. In between $400-per-hour quickies at exclusive hotels, Nancy and her happy hooker pals Jasmine and Allison attend sex-industry activist meetings and debate the sinister reappearance of Jack, a former john who now appears to be obsessed with Allison. Nancy whines about this and her deepening relationship with her commitment-minded boyfriend to her shrink, also revealing how she plunged into prostitution as a teen. The novel has neither a substantial plot (Nancy dithering over whether to marry her dream boyfriend and get out of the life) nor sex appeal: Nancy's descriptions of her sensual encounters, be they professional or personal, are about as erotic as a stereo instruction manual ("always do a few extra Kegels afterwards"). Fans of Quan's online column may enjoy the continuation of Nancy's X-rated soap opera, but first-time readers may be put off by her snobbishness. (Aug.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An avowedly autobiographical debut novel based heavily on Quan's erstwhile column for "Salon "("Nancy Chan": July 1999 to February 2000). Narrator Nancy decided at age 10 that she wanted to be a prostitute and began turning tricks at 14. Now in her early 30s but passing for much younger, Nancy has risen through the ranks to what amounts to the top of her chosen career: possession of her own book of regulars supplemented by referrals from a high-class madam. But then she faces an unexpected conflict. Nancy's boyfriend has proposed, and she has accepted, well aware that her new fiance is clueless about her worklife. (She uses freelance copyediting as her cover.) As he pushes her to start apartment-hunting with him, Nancy panics. She won't be able to work at home once she marries, she realizes, but she's not sure she wants to give up prostitution. Nancy ruminates about the choice she must make as she takes us through her routine: assignations; shrink appointments; shopping trips to return bras; visits to the hairdresser, gym, and waxing salon; and arguments with her two best friends, each of whom occasionally teams up with her on tricks. A subplot about Nancy's friend Ally and her involvement with "The New York Council of Trollops" takes on sudden importance in the last 20 pages when a less-experienced call girl is blackmailed by a very young computer nerd. Probably due to its origins in a column, the novel has a repetitive, static quality. Quan reintroduces characters and recites basic information over and over. You may learn more about pubic waxing than you ever want to know, ditto dildos. The matter-of-fact descriptions of sex as a job are decidedly un-erotic, but Nancy doesseem to enjoy her work, which she takes more seriously than most readers will.

Product Details

Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Paperback Edition
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

Monday, 1/31/00

Dear Diary,

Today I had the most embarrassing experience—with one of my regulars. Howard was flat on his back enjoying our threesome with Allison when I decided to straddle him backward—something I've done hundreds of times. So I carefully lowered my body, confident that my acrobatics looked like zero effort.

Howard stood firm inside of me, but I threw in a just-in-case moan for good measure. With my shoulder blades resting against his chest, all he could see was the back of my neck. Lying still in that position is more work than bouncing up and down, but it's usually the perfect strategy when you're doing a session with another girl. Howard can't check to see whether her tongue is really where it's supposed to be. And besides, it's his favorite position.

I felt serene. Supple. At the top of my game. Allie slithered down to the edge of my bed, placing her head somewhere between my legs—and his. I felt her long blond hair tickling my thighs. My cue to start moaning louder: "She's soooo good at that . . . she's licking my clit! Tell her not to stop! Oh, please don't stop . . ."

Unfortunately, when I thought Allison was pretending to do me, she was really doing Howard.

"Hey!" she whispered, when he had disappeared into the shower. "When you were telling him all that stuff, I was tickling his balls with my tongue!"

"You were?" I was indignant. "We're supposed to pretend you're eating my pussy! If you're going to change the routine, you have to tell me," I hissed. "You know I can't see what you're doing from that angle!"

"He seemed to like what I was doing!"

"Well," I was forced to concede, "I suppose that's what really matters." But still. How annoying.

Turning my attention to the bedroom phone, I quickly checked my voice mail. Jasmine's crisp clarity—"Thursday. Don't be late. Harry at five p.m.!"—was a welcome distraction. Then voice mail from Eileen: "I gave your number to Steven G. He's dying to meet another Oriental. But he's kind of kinky, so call me first. It's for today!" Eileen Wong's clients tend to be impulse buyers with a hundred strange quirks. And a message from Steven himself, sounding bashful but eager: "Hi, uh, well, I'll have to call you back. Hello? Are you there? I'm on my way to an ATM. I'll call back in ten minutes." There was street noise in the background. Car phone? Pay phone? Hard to tell. He sounds like the type of guy who's cautious enough to use a pay phone when he calls a working girl. Probably married. Or maybe just self-conscious and paranoid about whatever it is that turns him on.

Allison mumbled apologetically into her cashmere sweater as she pulled it over her face: "Honestly, I thought you could see me, Nancy! I didn't know . . ." As her pale shoulders disappeared into the sweater, her silly ingratiating grimace almost made me back down.

"How can I possibly see you if I'm staring at the ceiling?" I retorted crossly.

Howard returned, a towel wrapped around his soft damp middle, smirking with satisfaction. I was furious with myself for revealing a trade secret. To a john I've been seeing for more than five years! But I brazened it out with professional blitheness. As I bade him farewell, he winked and said, "See you next Monday—I'll bring two Oscars. You both earned them!" I flashed him a cool smile.

Allison followed me into the bathroom, pondering her latest dilemma out loud. "Guess who called? Jack! He's trying to make an appointment with me!"

This is so typical. Whenever I'm annoyed with Allison, she tries to distract me with her problems.

Jack can still find new girls through the back pages of New York magazine, but he's barred from the beds of girls like us who trade customers privately. Shouldn't Allie know better than to contemplate seeing Jack?

From behind the shower door, I reminded her, "We blacklisted him! Nobody wants to see Jack after what he did. And neither do you."

"Well, maybe I do," she said petulantly. "He misses me and he's offering me a lot of money. Maybe I should reconsider this—this blacklist thing."

We blacklisted him because of what he did last year—and Allie was the first girl to experience the terrible fallout of Jack's behavior. How can she forget? Much less forgive?

I pointed the handheld showerhead between my thighs, then aimed it cautiously at my breasts, to avoid splattering my hair. It's an occupational hazard, showering four times a day: My hair has to look great for work, yet I'm constantly in danger of wrecking it . . . Catch-22!

"He offered me a thousand!" Allie was saying. "Just to see me for—you know, the usual."

His normal rate is three hundred dollars. A grand for half an hour! That's hard to turn down. But Allison doesn't need to hear that. She needs to learn how to say no and mean it.

"After what he did to us, I think it would be a major betrayal for any girl to make an exception," I told her.

"But I have—I mean, Jack and I had—a different kind of . . ." Her voice grew squeaky and faint. "Well, anyway, I'd like to hear his side of the story."

Yeah, I'll bet she would! For a thousand dollars, who wouldn't? But the point is, your word's not worth much if you say yes to everything that looks financially appealing. Or easy.

"His side? He has no side. I don't care how much he pays, dealing with him is just too risky."

"He's so easy," Allie pointed out. "And he wears a condom for everything."

"We're not talking about that kind of risk! And you have to stop thinking in the short term! He gives you a grand today and that's great. What happens later? What if you lose all your contacts with the other girls? Jack's generosity won't make up for that. Ever."

As I slid the shower door open, Allison handed me a towel. That childish pleading look again! Even though we're the same size—we can trade bras—I suddenly felt like the huge clumsy playmate of a delicate fine-boned little girl. I stared into the bathroom mirror and saw, reflected back, a surprisingly graceful neck. Not the awkward galumphing outcast—a ghost from early puberty—that I sometimes imagine myself to be. And my hair had kept its shape.

Like me, Allie looks easily ten years younger than she really is. If we were aging at different rates, would we have stayed friends for so long? In fact, I wonder sometimes if looks are the basis for most female friendships: the looker who takes up with a lesser looker because it bolsters her ego; the attractive girl who (having learned that lesson) seeks out pretty friends so she won't have to deal with another woman's jealousy raging out of control—it's easier to manage your own insecurities, after all. Those of another girl can be hard to read, impossible to quell, and therefore highly dangerous. Allie and I have our problems—I know in my heart that it's not the healthiest friendship—but where looks are concerned, ours is a bond between equals. And that's important.

"I didn't agree to do anything with him," Allison was insisting. "We're just talking about it."

"You shouldn't even be talking to him," I warned her.

If I wasn't as pretty, she'd suspect me of sabotaging her out of jealousy. And if she wasn't as pretty, she'd hate me for being so dismissive of male admiration. Allie appeared to be listening respectfully, but she became distracted and started glancing at her watch. I gave up.

Before she left, Allison begged me not to mention Jack's phone calls to Jasmine. "You know how she jumps to conclusions!" she simpered. "Jasmine's so judgmental. And she might tell everyone." She tucked four hundreds into a shiny pink Louis Vuitton backpack and zipped it shut.

Maybe I should take the cut from Allie, instead of relying on her to send me back a date, but her parting words killed that possibility: "Oh, good! I can pay my rent now. Thanks! I'll send you someone soon. Okay?" Catching the look on my face, she added, "February's rent! It's due tomorrow. I have to get to the bank."

"You're seeing guys to pay the rent the day before it's due—?" Before I could finish, the phone interrupted me. Allie headed for the elevator as I grabbed the ringing phone.

"I think I missed Steven's call," I told Eileen. "I have to go out now. I can see him around seven."

"Oh. Bummer." Eileen sighed. "You have to get this guy while he's hot. He'll call next week. Do you have sheer stockings? They have to be sheer, not stretch. And please don't wear platforms—he likes real heels."

"Platforms? Why would I wear platforms with a john?"

"You wouldn't believe what the last girl wore. These new girls! Listen, I know he'll call. He wants to see an Oriental—badly. Don't let him make an appointment for the next day, though. He'll screw it up. If he calls when you're not busy, that's the best way to see him. He's very fast. Three fifty. Be cold and bitchy but don't order him around. He's not a slave. But he wants to worship you . . ."

What kind of guy knows the difference between sheer and stretch stockings? For $350, I'm quite intrigued. Eileen and I trade a lot of business—we both have clients who go for the petite Asian look, though I think my guys are less fixated on it. (A lot of my clients enjoy Allison, too—maybe it's the blond contrast.) Funny how every call girl I know ends up with a certain type of regular. Eileen's customers are fetishistic, Jasmine's are among the quickest. I'm not sure how to define a typical Allison client . . . not sure I want to.

"Hey, by the way. I've been getting these calls," Eileen said. "Hang-ups! And voice mail with lots of stupid breathing. Ever since I heard from you-know-who."

"Oh god. Jack?"

"Yeah. The nerve! He acts like nothing happened, you know? Like we don't know."

"Well, don't let on!" I said, alarmed. "Just tell him you're busy and get off the phone—politely."

When you blacklist a client, he's not supposed to know about it.

"Look, I don't have to humor him—not after what he did to me! Blabbing to that—"

"If he finds out he's being blacklisted, he might take it out on you in some way! What's more important? Being right? Or being happy? And safe?"

"Well, I hung up on him, okay? I told him to leave me alone. And now I'm getting these calls. I bet it's Jack! He has no right to do this."

Between Allison wanting to make up with him, and Eileen self-righteously provoking him, I really don't know what to do. The whole idea was to turn the volume down on this guy in the hopes that he would just go away and stay out of our circle. Ever since he—

Yikes—almost 3:30. All the cabs are changing shifts! It will be a nightmare getting across town. Must log off NOW, SOON, five minutes ago, if I really plan to be on time for therapy.

Meet the Author

Tracy Quan lives in New York City. This is her first novel.

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Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 45 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The title of this book makes you think it will be one of the most exciting books you will ever read. Honestly it was one of the worst books I ever read. It lacks so much I don't even know where to begin. Half the time the reader is simply made to endure endless pages of following the main character around the city getting her hair done, leg waxed, etc. Unfortunately this book does not live up to its title.
Hat_Fantastic More than 1 year ago
Couldn't get interested at all, finally just threw the book down and started another one.
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This book was hard to stay into. I felt the story line was all over the place and it was difficult to keep reading. Half the time I would forget the characters in the story because many of them were hardly mentioned. I kept reading just for the ending, but I was disappointed by that as well. However, the book is okay for a quick read and is not utterly terrible.
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Heather Ayala More than 1 year ago
I am a big time reader. I love all genres and can appreciate the different aspects of a novel no matter what the topic. Since purchasing my nook i have read about 4 books a week and this is the FIRST book that i simply could not finish. I struggled through almost 90 pages of obnoxiously unriveting story line before giving up and moving on to something else. Not worth the money...
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Whitty More than 1 year ago
I couldn't even finish it.
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