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Teasing the Reader
am 17. Juli 2000
I probably would have enjoyed this more had I not previously read "Native Tongue." However, the similar ironic humor, not-quite-what-they-seem characters, and convenient plot devices make the writing seem familiar. The formerly outrageous implausibility now seems too deliberate, almost scripted for a series of five-minutes scenes (and "Strip Tease" did become an awful movie), the sleazy villains and virtuous heroes are now predictably offbeat, tenacious, and plain lucky. We can forgive the manipulations on a first encounter, he's a good and clever author taking you on a gravity-defying roller coaster. But we're a little more leery with this outing, and the farcical is supplanted too often by the expedient. Again, he's such a good writer that you want to go along with him, but after a while, it's a bit too felicitous.
In "Strip Tease," the characters are, for the most part, either good people in unfortunate situations, or bad people in fortunate ones. The heroine, while appealing and feisty, is still somewhat of a cliche--the whore with a heart of gold--only she's not a whore, she's a stripper, and she's her own stripper too, refusing to do table or lap dances. And, if that weren't enough, she's doing this all to pay lawyer's fees to regain custody of her daughter. Here she is, a former FBI assistant, smarter than anyone around her, can type 70 words a minute, and only this job will pay the attorney? A job, no matter how how she limits it, that isn't likely to win many points in future custody battles. Makes for a fun novel, what with the easy target of a sleazy (but not too!) strip joint, a violent (but good-hearted) bouncer, and mostly good ole' boy customers, but not a very plausible one.
Again, this might work better in a pure farce, but the multiple murders, child endangerment, and unexplored exploitation of women works against this. The author would have us believe that the strippers really have the upper hand, but why, in the epilogue, do so many of them leave the joint for such heretofore unimagined pursuits such as law school? OK, let's just take it tongue in cheek...but after a while it begins to read like a male fantasy, with the author rescuing the women and punishing the unjust. While exposing the corruption of Florida's sugar cane industry, there's very little comment about the lurid, potentially dangerous life of a stripper. (Oh, those must be the "BAD" strippers, not the ones described here.) 3 ½ * if you've never read the author before, he's funny, ironic, and writes an exciting conclusion, but I respectfully disagree with my Amazon colleagues who rate this a 5. Ultimately, the tease is on the reader.