Strip City: A Stripper's Farewell Journey Across America
Strippers and writers are often on opposite ends of the exhibitionist spectrum--you hope the former stays quiet and the latter stays clothed. But Lily Burana's memoir, Strip City, demonstrates that some success is attainable in both fields if you know how to sell your assets.
Burana worked as a stripper in various clubs for six years before focusing on a writing career. On the verge of matrimony, however, she decided to dust off her G-string for a cross-country tour of gentlemen's clubs. Strip City is subtitled A Stripper's Farewell Journey Across America, but that's just part of the tease.
In fact, Burana's tour is really a handful of club dates scattered across the country and throughout her calendar. The resulting memoir is as scattered as her itinerary. At over 300 pages, Strip City is padded with shallow references to feminist debates on stripping, tedious interviews with colleagues, and Burana's obligatory confession of how she was a rebellious middle-class teenager who sought fame in New York and got hooked on the stripping lifestyle.
One constant throughout this mess, however, is Burana's brooding over becoming either a professional stripper or writer. She frequently mentions that she writes articles for magazines--generally "relationship" pieces for the likes of New York magazine and Salon.com. If she simply flipped a coin and lived with the result, however, she would have spared her readers a lot of grief. For example, she decides early in the book, "I'll take most of the fall off [from stripping], as that's my high season as a journalist," as though periodicals needed to get their articles in before the first frost.
There's a remote chance that Burana is joking, but she doesn't evince any journalistic sensibility. She doesn't even recognize a good story when she's in one. In the middle of the book, she glosses over her involvement in a 1994 class-action lawsuit against a San Francisco club in a single chapter. It's a clumsy aside that comes far too late to establish her role in the business or to discuss strip-club culture.
At best, Burana is a novelty act whose career at baring her breasts gave her a chance to bare her soul. A few sections of Strip City could have been articles written by a stripper-writer, a writer-stripper, or a dancing bear with a word processor--but right now, they're just part of a lousy memoir.