Vulture Feeds on Wetlands
New York magazine, which has one of the zippiest book sections around, along with their I-wish-they-posted-on-books-more Vulture blog, launched their first Vulture Reading Room book discussion. Did they start with typical book-group fare like Eat, Pray, Love or A Thousand Splendid Suns? Nope, they went right down in the muck with Wetlands, Charlotte Roche's gleefully smutty debut novel, which was a publishing phenomenon in her native Germany but seems to be turning out more midlisty in translation here in the States. Along with their excellent book critic, Sam Anderson, and their writer Adam Sternbergh, they've roped in novelists Ayelet Waldman and Kate Christensen and Bookslut honcho Jessa Crispin. The verdict: nearly unanimous. Some of the only mildly family-unfriendly quotes:
- Anderson: "There were moments ... when I was 100 percent sure that this was the worst thing I'd ever read."
- Waldman: "So, cards on the table. I thought this was a loathsome little turd of a novel."
- Crispin: "So what if Wetlands is a total failure as a novel? I didn’t care about the parents, and no one in the book is slightly believable.... Honestly, I’m very glad Wetlands exists."
- Sternbergh: "Oh, and did I mention, IT’S SO BORING. Because it’s really, really boring. I had several weeks to finish this slim volume and carried it with me everywhere, yet reopening it filled me with dread every time. I mourned the hours lost during which I could have been reading better books."
- Christensen: "How did you guys all manage to read the whole thing? This book bums me out. I wanted to find it hilarious, transgressive, honest, and interesting, but I can barely force myself to go on reading it. I'm stuck on page 141. Not because I'm squeamish, which I am not in any way, but because it's so searingly awful, as you've all already and very eloquently and hilariously pointed out: tawdry, pointless, boring, badly written ... eccch."
But then Anderson, despite the moments he mentions above, decided, either from an authentic contrarian spirit or from the necessity of keeping the conversation going for another round, to mount a defense of the book:
How will that gambit go over? Well, here's the first response, from Waldman:
Regardless of the outcome, may the Vulture return to feed again. --Tom