THE CAMERA MY MOTHER GAVE ME
Eight years ago, Kaysen's affecting story of her two years in a psychiatric hospital, Girl, Interrupted, helped sparked the memoir craze and later became a Hollywood blockbuster. Now Kaysen, also an accomplished novelist (Asa, As I Knew Him; Far Afield), returns with this thin, disappointing chronicle of what happened when "something went wrong" with her vagina. The terse narrative chronicles her quest to determine the cause of and cure for disabling vaginal pain—vestibulitis, the medical term for a "sore spot" on the wall of her vagina. The most intriguing element is Kaysen's explosive relationship with an unnamed live-in boyfriend who, despite her pain, pressures her to have intercourse: "I want to fuck you, goddammit, he said, lunging at me, pushing his hand between my legs. I jumped out of bed. I was naked... I ran downstairs. All I could think of was to get away from the bed and from him and his fingers. I pressed my back against the wall in the living room and shook, from cold and the remnants of my desire." Later, sans boyfriend, Kaysen reflects—too briefly—on how she's changed as her desire for sex evaporates, concluding, "when eros goes away, life gets dull." Stingy with basic facts—the reader is left wondering how old she is and how she spends her days (writing? teaching?)—the memoir is admirable in its honesty and insights into medicine's limits. (Oct.)
Forecast:Already the subject of a New York Times piece suggesting this "autopathography" may become the target of a backlash against such transgressive confessions, Kaysen's slight memoir will spark some controversy, but don't expect Girl, Interrupted–level sales.