I may not be the best person to post about this, as I rarely run out to read new fiction, and probably will not run out and read Wetlands, either. But there have been a number of reviews, features and interview with the author in the press lately, including an excerpt from the first chapter of the novel at Nerve (where you can also find an interview with the author).
For those of you living under a rock, Wetlands quickly became infamous mostly for its graphic, uncensored language about the various body parts, fluids, and sexual practices of the 18-year-old (anti-?) heroine Helen Memel. Words like “pussy,” “smegma,” “asshole,” and “cock” are frequently employed, along with Memel’s own creative terms like “snailtail” (for clitoris). Get out your smelling salts, laydeez, that’s just the beginning.
There is discussion in these various outlets about the feminist or anti-feminist content of the novel: is Roche’s project a feminist one? Though I’ve read a handful of features, I have yet to see her make a clear declaration one way or another, although from what have read, Roche claims to be making some clear statements against the constant social policing of the female body in all it’s hairy, smelly, excreting glory.
Which is what it is: hairy, smelly, and excreting. (Just like the male body.) We’re all animals, no matter how hard we try to obscure the fact–whether we do it with razors and potions and perfumes, or with words. Part of what Roche seems to be doing is pulling back the curtain on the myth that women are sugar-scented angels, but one could also argue that she’s merely rehashing the eternal trope of women as “pretty poison.”
Grove, Roche’s US publisher, has this to say:
Charlotte Roche exposes the double bind of female sexuality, delivering a compulsively readable and fearlessly intimate manifesto on sex, hygiene, and the repercussions of family trauma.
Since few if any of us have read the book (if you have, please weigh in!), we must needs speak more generally. Obviously, some people are still shocked by unflinching descriptions of women’s bodily functions and feelings–just today, my Dude mentioned that he recently overheard a woman (a stranger in a public place) say she was “flowing like Niagra Falls” and found that unexpected, graphic, and funny, all at once. But is it a double-bind? Can we ever speak frankly of these things without their being turned back against us as proof of our monstrous animality?
How direct is the connection between frank or filthy language, and the frank acceptance of our bodies? Do you think a book like Wetlands does more harm than good (whatever its avowed politics may or may not be)? Where do you draw the line between being guileless about our bodies and experiences, and being gratuitous?