I rarely read memoirs, contemporary memoirs even less. But someone in need of funds must’ve recently emptied their eclectic book collection at my local used bookstore, because I swear that I could’ve filled my car’s trunk till it wouldn’t close if I’d actually bought everything there that I wanted. And among the oodles of books that I bought was a memoir, Ruth Fowler’s No Man’s Land.
Fowler is a youngish Cambridge University graduate from North Wales, who traveled extensively, working odd jobs, finally ending up in New York in 2005. Only 25, but street-smart and mighty brave, she was unable to make ends meet in the pre-recession U.S. with freelance articles and essays. That’s hardly an unfamiliar tale to any writer/artist/musician/actor/dancer wannabe. What was unusual was Fowler’s next steps: She adopted the persona of “Mimi” and began a career as a strip club dancer. Initially, this solved the pragmatic problems of getting by in the incredibly high-cost-of-living mean streets of Manhattan. But, soon enough, she finds that the “Mimi” persona begins to consume her life, and her own identity begins to recede. Reviews call No Man’s Land a ‘harrowing’ account. It is…harrowing and more.
But here’s the odd thing: I was nearly halfway through this enthralling memoir when it dawned on me that I’d already read this book, but under a different title (and not all that long ago) – Girl, Undressed, in a paperback edition.
But I continued reading.
No Man’s Land is simply that good. Grim? Oh my, yes. Depressing? You betcha. But really, really good.
Get this book and read it. And if not, then get to Google or Bing and dig around for Ruth Fowler, because there are oodles of interviews, articles and essays by her and about her, and they’re all intriguing and thought-provoking reads, covering a wide array of topics, from her Hollywood screenwriting experiences, to critiques of university graduate writing programs, to feminism, and American economics/culture and more.