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Chemical Pink [Paperback]

Katie Arnoldi
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

31 Oct 2002
Aurora Jeanine Johnson is desperate to sculpt a new life and a new body-in California, where the quest for the perfect butt or bicep reaches religious intensity Spending every spare moment at the gym, Aurora is barely getting by-until she meets the man who will offer her everything she most desires. Charles Worthington is an eccentric, rich enough to indulge his every decadent fantasy. Aurora is his sexual ideal, the raw material from which he will shape his masterpiece. He will transform her into the woman of his fantasies, no matter the cost. To achieve their goal, Aurora hands over complete control of her life to Charles. He dictates her diets, her lifestyle, her training-and how much she'll take of the body-altering drug he "prescribes" for her. He decides whom she sees and where she goes-and what kinky games they will play. Aurora considers this is all a small price to pay to become the woman she longs to be. But is there a line she won't cross, a sacrifice she will not make?

Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: St Martin's Press; New edition edition (31 Oct 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312878915
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312878917
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 14.1 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,496,688 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"One of the most unusual pieces of fiction I've ever seen. I read it non-stop in 4 1/2 hours; couldn't put it down. Comic and horrifying, sadistic and hilarious, tragic and funny all at the same time. . . .I never read anything quite like this. It's as if the Marquis de Sade got loose again with his funny bone banging at our front door."--Liz Smith, syndicated column

""Chemical Pink" is a dazzling first novel--entirely original, dizzyingly controlled, all ice-cool momentum on the surface and all shock below."--Joan Didion

""Chemical Pink" is a compelling novel that explores a dark and troubling world. I was fascinated -- and occasionally repelled -- by this rarefied subculture that Arnoldi so skillfully leads us into. She is a talented writer with a sharp, distinctive voice."--Carrie Fisher

"It is difficult these days to shock and beguile with a kind of aggressive innocence, but Miss Arnoldi has in this book. It is disturbingly funny and utterly unflinching."--Susanna Moore, author of" In the Cut"

About the Author

Katie Arnoldi lives in Venice, California, where she surfs competitively in long board competitions. She is married to the painter Charles Arnoldi; they have two children.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
It had given Charles great satisfaction to rip out the green Italian marble tub, the gold fixtures, the pale green porcelain toilet and matching bidet and to install angled mirrors, harsh overhead lighting and a six-foot-square posing platform in the center of the room. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Freaky, disturbing and satisfying 18 July 2007
A woman obsessed with her body and on the breadline; a controlling and extremist man obsessed with female bodybuilders, with winning, and with unsettlingly kinky sex. A whole host of drugs, and the extreme diet you eat to go with them. What does this do to your relationship with yourself, your loved ones, and with the world around you? Every facet of Aurora's life is drawn into the strange, intense and claustrophobic world of female bodybuilding Arnoldi describes. Gradually, she loses her independence, her daughter and her ability to think for herself.

This is a good, compelling read. Arnoldi has the knack of getting inside each of the main characters' heads in turn and making their behaviour seem sane and rational (or rationalised), at least until you turn the page and see it from someone else's point of view. What will all these characters' obsessions do to them? You find out!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Weird 28 April 2011
For some reason I thought this was not a work of fiction, not sure why, so was slightly dissapointed when it arrived.

It was an ok read, bit weird tho.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.9 out of 5 stars  59 reviews
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revolting, but in a good way 4 Aug 2002
By A Customer - Published on
They say this book is Palahniuk-esque, but I don't know. I'm a big fan of Chuck Palahniuk's work, which is how I found this book in the first place, but the prose style that makes Palahniuk's books so amazing is not to be found here. Which is not to say it's poorly written - it's not, not at all. Arnoldi has a very straightforward narrative style, much sparser than Palahniuk's, but it serves her story perfectly well. I think the comparison comes because to the non-bodybuilder, Arnoldi's characters seem as bizarre as Palahniuk's, and their lives a little surreal. And certainly this book is Grotesque. But I've Been There Done That, and the characters in this book are not bizarre creations of Arnoldi's mind, they're completely real, or at least, there really are people just like them. The author says so herself, and you can take her at her word.
As a former bodybuilder, although not a pro, I recognized Arnoldi's characters instantly. There's the superior attitude toward "normal" people, who jiggle when they walk; the tendency to pose naked in front of the bedroom mirror; that odd separation of self from body; but most of all, the ultimate paradox of women's bodybuilding: bodies that scream strength and power, but which are in fact under the complete and unquestioning control of a male "sponsor" and/or trainer.
Aurora, like all fine young bodybuilding women, needs help. Aurora wants to be the best, and she has the genetic gifts to do it, but she needs the right drugs, the right diet, and a way to finance the gym rat lifestyle. Bodybuilding is more than a sport and more than an art. Dieting and drugging have been elevated to a precise and deadly dangerous science, known only to an elite few and affordable to fewer. Aurora's an amateur and she's broke. Her only chance is to find a sponsor.
And so, Aurora gladly turns herself over to Charles, a wealthy, weasely, bodybuilding aficionado, when he offers to make her a star. All she has to do is give up her personal freedom and all control over her body. Charles and the trainer he hires, Henrik, walk her through every day up to the big contest, controlling her eating, drinking, training, and shooting her up with a dizzying cocktail of drugs from human growth hormone to insulin. They treat her like a prize heifer, and if they are aware of her on a human level, it doesn't show.
This ugly dynamic is what makes the book brilliant. The fact that it is extended into the bedroom, where Aurora performs the *dirtiest* acts for Charles' amusement and Henrik runs a bodybuilder prostitution ring, drives the lesson home. She might look strong and independent, but it's an illusion - her body is the product of patriarchal exploitation at best, sickening perversity at worst. But all through this book the male proprietary nature of women's bodybuilding pops up. Her first "trainer," Skip, takes her under his wing and talks about "peeling" her (making her leaner) and giving her shoes that make her calves "pop." His joy in taking control of her body, beginning with its shape and attire and culminating in the sexual act, illustrates the tendency of men in this book to strive single-mindedly for ownership and domination of women's bodies. There is even a revolting scene where in return for an affectionate peck on the cheek, a mentally disabled man begins to grope and rub against her. Everything Aurora touches seems to turn to dirty sex.

This book follows not so much Aurora's bodybuilding career, as her ironic loss of control over her life and body while exercising a level of physical discipline few people will ever know. The big question, of course, is just how far she is willing to go, and the book provides a very satisfying answer.
There are a lot of good things that I remember about my own time as a bodybuilder, and this book made me wonder what the heck they were. It's a one-sided vision (the sleazy side), for sure, but I loved it anyway. I only wish it had been longer.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two words: OH MY! 30 Jan 2003
By Dianna Setterfield - Published on
I got WAY more than expected with this novel. I was under the impression this book was solely about female bodybuilding and one character's dream of making it big. But during my reading, I became increasinly aware that Chemical Pink is about more than that. Much, much more.
Katie Arnoldi, a former bodybuilder herself, has used her expertise and experience to pen an accurate account of what really happens to female weighlifters -- at least in the scientific aspect. I learned so much about this industry and the irreversible damages that "power" drugs wreak on the body. But it is the supporting characters that completely blew me away.
Chemical Pink tells the story of bodybuilder Aurora Johnson; her 12-year-old daughter, Amy, and the man who becomes Aurora's sponsor, Charles Worthington. Charles offers Aurora the chance of a lifetime: a house, a car, a lifestyle that she's always dreamed of, and the opportunity to train under his wing in an effort to become a professional bodybuilder. Aurora immediately jumps at the chance, but there is one catch -- she is required to make Charles happy on a daily basis. Aurora becomes Charles's object of obsession, his sexual role-playing partner, his trophy, his clay to mold.
This novel is very good. The effects of steroids and other chemicals discussed in the story are horrific. But it is the addictions and obsessions of Charles that really come alive. His sex scenes are quite possibly the grossest I've ever read and left my mouth hanging open with shock! As far as the writing goes, Katie Arnoldi is very talented and can tell quite a story. I believe there is much more to come from her, and I look forward to reading more of her work.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing story of (strange) sex and obsession! 24 Oct 2005
By Jill Stoler - Published on
At first, Chemical Pink seems to be a story about women's bodybuilding, but look just below the surface and you will see a disturbing, yet enthralling tale of obsession.

Charles Worthington is a "mad scientist" of sorts, obsessed with creating the world's greatest female bodybuilder. Like a predator stalking its prey, he searches for his next "conquest" by lurking in the shadows, watching women as they workout in the gym and tan on the beach.

Aurora Jeanine Johnson is a single mother and bodybuilder from Georgia willing to do anything it takes to get to the top of her sport, and subsequently becomes Charles Worthington's next "project." He makes her an offer she can't refuse: The house and car of her dreams, the best clothes, lots of money...but she must do everything he says -- or else. As a result, Aurora finds herself doing things she never imagined.

Under Charles's control, Aurora is pumped full of steroids and subjected to act out his strange -- and at times sadistic -- sexual fantasies. If she dares to defy him, Charles will throw a temper tantrum like a child. In fact, one of his sexual fantasies Aurora is forced to act out has Charles "being a baby," laying on a "changing table" in nothing but a cloth diaper fastened with a safety pin. Charles wails, and Aurora must come out and change his diaper, which he actually urinated in.

I highly recommend this exciting, riveting book to anyone who is looking for a dark, gritty page-turner. Consider yourself warned, though: This book is graphic! If you are "into that sort of thing," you will find Chemical Pink hard to put down. It is entertaining enough for the "casual reader" who just wants something to read on the train to and from work, but deep enough for those looking for a novel that dares to explore the "dark side" of the human psyche (especially the effects of child neglect, an underlying theme throughout the book). Bottom line: I couldn't tear myself away from this book, and I doubt you will either.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing debut novel 17 April 2001
By John M. Caffey - Published on
Being a sucker for "Pygmalion"- inspired tales, I found this book both entertaining and moving. I now see the women I encounter at Gold's Gym in a whole different, and somewhat more poignant light. Well done.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wow. what a read! 4 April 2001
By thomas j. hencz - Published on
This book was recommended to me by a friend who said I should read something different. And I wasn't disappointed! Although the subject grosses me out (for lack of a better expression), I couldn't put this book down. What a great story teller Ms. Arnoldi is! If you are not familiar with the professional weight lifting world, be prepared to get a no-holds-barred look at what it really takes. If you are, well, good luck.
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