Updated: May 13, 2021
By Joanna Angel
2021 (Cleis Press)
Like most New Yorkers, Naomi is just trying to make a buck. Her daily routine of serving overpriced coffee in Hell's Kitchen suddenly toppled after spilling a drink on a customer, this accident-prone young working girl forgoes commuting back to the hipster headquarters of Brooklyn, instead wandering through the kitsch and the glitz of Times Square. Within two hours, she is auditioning to be a house stripper for the day-shift at Club 42.
What happens next? In Joanna Angel´s follow up to Night Shift: A Choose-Your-Own Erotic Fantasy (2018, Cleis Press), the reader gets to decide at the end of each chapter. I´ve begun the book three times, and so far have already experienced three different outcomes: in one, Naomi is taken under the wing by Brandi, a sexy, no-nonsense dancer, and the two end up taking over the club after a police raid. In another, Naomi befriends a co-worker, who invites her to explore the BDSM scene at a dungeon in the Meatpacking District. One storyline lead me back to Brooklyn, where Naomi navigates with sensitivity and vulnerability how to tell her kinda-sorta-boyfriend about her new job.
It's an inventive written form, reminiscent of porn DVDs of an earlier era where the viewer could choose what happened next at the click of a button. Angel´s book is also a hell of a lot of fun. Amidst all of the variations of sex, kink, exhibitionism, and fetish, the dialogue and the story-threads are consistently sex-positive and welcoming. Like with her previous choose-your-own erotic fantasy novel, Angel grounds her heroine in a fictional reality which is upbeat, enthusiastic, and often humorous. Naomi´s difficulties getting her Marc Jacobs dress off during her first audition at the club is a good example, making her and the other characters relatable as real people.
Joanna Angel herself is no newbie to pornography and erotica. For nearly twenty years, she has built a formidable career as an award-winning performer, as well as founding her own independent adult entertainment company, Burning Angel, to direct and produce her own content.
Club 42 aims higher than asking its readers to masturbate while reading (though there is absolutely nothing wrong with that). The erotic fantasies Angel writes here are refreshing for their roots in a recognizable reality. The heroine of the novel is not the greatest stripper in New York, but she is also not the worst. Naomi´s past isn´t marked with any kind of painful traumatic event; she´s a house stripper, working the day shift at a club in midtown Manhattan, because she needs to pay her bills. Somehow, making her and the other characters more real only deepens the fantasy, and thus the eroticism of Club 42.