I was once asked to give a short speech at a fundraiser for a dance troupe. “Why support the arts?” I asked the crowd. “Why give money to these people to twirl around onstage? It’s simple — dancers are hot. If unable to continue their craft, why, they’ll just have to get office jobs, and trapped at a desk, they’ll let themselves go. It would be a tragedy for ALL of us."
I’m happy to say that got a laugh from the crowd and some more donations, but while author Andrew Binks rightly agrees that dancers are hot, cheap gags aren’t what he’s going for in his sexy and soulful new novel, Strip. The bodies of dancers are thoroughly explored, but Binks is equally concerned with their psyches.
"I used to dance, and some of this story is autobiographical,” Binks says. "I knew many dancers.” His book celebrates their successes and struggles, as its protagonist falls short of his overachieving goals, is betrayed by colleagues and goes to work in a Montreal strip club.
What’s interesting about Strip is that John’s new career in erotic dance is presented as both a fall from grace and a liberation. It would be too easy and puritanical to present the strip club as some seedy purgatory like on TV soap operas, but Binks is interested in how the venue reveals his hero’s flaws while opening him up to a new outlook on sex, love and life.“He discovers more about himself and his dreams and dance as a result,” Binks says, and the drive for love and sex becomes not about youth or physical perfection, but compatibility and tastes. By the story's end, both hero and reader alike have learned a lot about tops and bottoms, ambitions and failures, beauty and grit.
Andrew Binks will be reading from his new novel tonight, Nov 8, from 6pm to 8pm at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St, and will be signing copies of the book at Glad Day Bookshop on Sat, Nov 9, from 2pm to 3pm.