Until recently I was the kind of reader who always finished a book. There’s something I relish about reading a book that I find infuriating. It’s a delicious form of self-inflicted torture. The Wonder Spot by Melissa Banks was one such cringe-inducing eye-roller of a novel, which I managed to force feed myself whilst 30, 000 feet above the Atlantic. It was a book so vacuous and redundant in its existence that I literally squirmed in my seat.
Wetlands, the international bestseller by former German VJ and professed non-reader, Charlotte Roche, however, is one of the most unsatisfyingly bad books I’ve ever cracked open. Narrated from the hospital bed of 18-year-old perv, Helen Memel, the novel opens with a description of her haemorrhoids and quickly moves to the reason she’s in the hospital: a shaving accident and subsequent festering wound on her anus.
The gross-out factor here is high and that’s the point. The fact of the matter is Roche doesn’t have much to say beyond shocking statements about putting things into places they shouldn’t and popping them out again with the addition of several serendipitous orgasms.
Roche has stated that this is a feminist novel in which she’s reclaiming the female body (and its smells) from today’s shaved, plucked, waxed and overall sanitized ideal. But if she’d set out to write a feminist novel, why such ignorance on things like abortion and sexually transmitted disease? There’s also the issue of Helen’s self-image and that fact that she seems to embrace very little about herself beyond her sexual organs or the various types of pus her body creates.
Critics have called it everything from erotic to subversive to pornographic but the bottom line is it’s boring and badly written—this book makes a strong case for character regression—and no amount of tampon sniffing and anal probing can make it otherwise. In fact I was so bored by her continuous smegma tasting antics that I stopped at 130 pages. Sometimes there’s nothing to be gained beyond immediate impressions.