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Novel of the week: Wetlands by Charlotte Roche
A best-seller in Germany, Roche's "savage" comedy is narrated by an 18-year-old libertine who ruminates about sexual appetite and "the weirdness of the female body."

(Grove, $17.95)

This imported German best-seller has been misleadingly labeled a racy taboo-breaker, said Troy Patterson in Slate.com. Narrated by Helen, a troubled 18-year-old libertine who has landed in a hospital proctology unit after a mishap during her “lady shaving” regimen, it becomes largely “an encyclopedia of bodily secretions and a catalogue of the nonstandard ends” to which Helen deploys them. But only a reader who conflates scatological obsessions with sexual appetites could argue that the novel advances the liberation of women. In fact, said Sallie Tisdale in The New York Times, the “most unsettling part” of the Wetlands phenomenon is that Charlotte Roche, a former TV personality, considers herself a pioneer for “clumsily” broaching concepts that long have been prominent in the existing literature on female sexuality. Yet her “savage” comedy makes Wetlands innovative, said Nina Power in Salon.com. By inventing a new way to discuss “the weirdness of the female body,” it reminds both genders “how far we have to go to overcome deep-seated embarrassments” about our physical selves.

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