The Camera My Mother Gave Me by Susanna Kaysen (Knopf), 159 pages, $32 cloth. Rating: NNNN
When's the last time someone wrote a humorous book about her sick vagina? Renowned author Susanna Kaysen (Girl, Interrupted) gets down and physical in this descriptive, surreal memoir. When painful spots appear on her vulva, Kaysen goes to a trusted gynecologist, who pokes around and tells her to try anti-fungal cream, then estrogen cream, then anti-viral pills. Nothing helps -- her vagina still hurts. She visits a natural health nurse, who gets her to sit in baking soda, tea, boric acid and oatmeal. The long list of indignities continues, until a male vulvologist tells her he wants to scrape a centimetre of flesh off one side of her vagina. This is a bitterly absurd exposé of society's lack of understanding about female genitalia and the tale of a woman who takes control of her health.