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The Camera My Mother Gave ME


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About the Author

Susanna Kaysen is the author of the novels Far Afield and Asa, As I Knew Him and the memoir Girl, Interrupted. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


After the shattering revelations of Girl, Interrupted, Kaysen is at it again, this time detailing her anguish and medical odyssey after she lost all sexual sensation. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

"Scary, thought-provoking, and humorous. . . . Kaysen painstakingly constructs her own brilliant vagina monologue." -Elle

"Hilarious . . . intelligent and deeply felt . . . always interesting and, alas, occasionally heartbreaking." -The Boston Globe

"Strangely seductive, even entertaining, and frequently funny. . . . When one body part starts sending out a signal that can't be ignored, you can suddenly find yourself viewing friendships, partnerships, even inanimate objects through a different lens." -Newsday

"Pithy, funny, adventurous, sexy, and eye-opening. . . . Disguised as plain, brown memoir . . . [The Camera My Mother Gave Me is] a voluptuous exploration of sexuality, aging, the failures of modern medicine, attempts at self-knowledge, and the meaning of pain." -Kirkus

In this follow-up to Girl, Interrupted, Kaysen tackles an even more taboo subject than depression: her vagina. Maintaining the same humor and graphic honesty, she tells of her inconclusive search to diagnose and treat the shooting pains that plague her. Her gynecologist refers her to an herbalist, while her internist sends her to a biofeedback practitioner. She exhausts conventional aids like creams and pills as well as experiments with baking soda and acupuncture. Throughout, she bemoans how controlling, demanding, and unsympathetic her boyfriend is, leading the reader to wonder if her pain really lies in her head. It's as if the book is a form of therapy, allowing the author to dissect the mechanics of her sexuality. Told poetically and without apology, Kaysen's latest once again proves that the power of her work is deeply rooted in her ability to recognize her own emotions and convey them to others. Recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/01.] Rachel Collins, "Library Journal" Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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