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I’m Reading Wetlands…

March 28, 2009

…by Charlotte Roche and translated from German by Tim Mohr (and originally titled “Feuchtgebiete”). I’m actually on a second reading, as I was given an uncorrected proof to read some months ago. I now have a finished version, and so am diving in again. I think I’m going to hold off on a proper review until after I get through this second reading, although I suppose the fact that I’m giving it another go after only a few months says something.

This book is just so…frank. It begins with the sentence, “As far back as I can remember, I’ve had hemorrhoids.” By the end of the first page, we’re talking about hemorrhoid cream and itchiness and it’s not too long before we’re in shaving accident, anal lesion, hospitalization, infection, blister, and surgery territory. There are bodily functions out the wazoo (pun intended), and admissions of things that polite people have been trained not to make.

Some of the things the main character apparently thinks, says and does are just too much, are shocking and stomach-turning, and yet her odd words and deeds are presented in a way that make me suspect that anyone with a slightly less effective brain/mouth filter, slightly less impulse control, might find themselves in exactly her position. As one reviewer wrote:

“Helen’s messy, oozing, sexually unpredictable body operates as a metaphor for all the messiness of being 18 and grappling with issues of identity, sexuality, family dynamics and history — your reaction to the world and its to you. Her constant testing of social and personal boundaries underlines this; asking a male nurse to take a close-up photograph of her wound so she can look at it is but a tame example.”

The New York Times had a review in June of last year, but I’m starting to suspect that no review will really prepare you for this book. I honestly can’t decide how I feel about it – so I might as well read it again, apparently.

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