Sunday, February 21, 2010

Feuchtgebiete (Wetlands) by Charlotte Roche

Woa. Last night I started reading Feuchtgebiete (Wetlands) by Charlotte Roche. It's a totally insane and amazing transgressive novel that was a best-seller in Germany and has recently been translated into English. The debates of erotica vs. porn really don't come close to encapsulating the total gross-out subversiveness of main character 18 year old Helen Memel's obsessions with bodily fluids and everything "disgusting" and "unfeminine" about sex and the female body. JD Salinger meets JG Ballard kind of approximates a description of the writing style, but really this is an irreverent, powerful female voice to rival Lydia Lunch or Kathy Acker or perhaps Lisa Carver. That said, it's not a politically radical text on every front. There is something here to offend everyone! As squeamish as I am about this kind of stuff, the book is totally making me squirm and laugh out loud at the same time. It's actually very funny. I have read 100 pages, so I can't assess the book in full, but I couldn't wait to post about it when I woke up this morning. Has anyone else read it? Here's a review I saw the other day.


Mallory said...

I loved this book--so much so that I made my boyfriend listen to me read passages and ultimately recommended it to 'brave' friends, those who would soldier on thru the scab ingestion, toilet seat-genital rubbing, and sniffing out menstruators.

I was surprised when a co-worker told me she found it in a bookstore's 'erotica' section. 'Wetlands' hardly qualifies as erotica. Granted, there's a lot of talk of bodily functions/malfunctions, but it's not hyper-sexual in nature; Roche's intent doesn't seem to be to arouse the reader by talking bluntly about sex, and oftentimes, the sex in question is pretty singular, doesn't even involve two people.

Getting past the gross-out factors, she makes some valuable points about human relationships: our relationships with each other, our relationships with our bodies, how surgery and the malfunctioning of a person's body can force her to consider it, notice it in ways she never has before. Roche challenges bodily etiquette/norms, repeatedly forcing the reader to ask herself what it is she finds so repelling about the protagonist's behavior. Why is eating a scab or dead skin so much worse than eating a dead animal? Because it's a byproduct of your body? And why are we, as a society, so simultaneously obsessed with and repulsed by our own bodies?

saralibrarian said...

i tried reading this one after reading about it somewhere when the english version first came out but i couldn't do it... it made my gums hurt to read it! i don't think i was offended as much as it just made me feel too physically uncomfortable to continue.