The Lady Is a Tramp

Michel Faber's bawdy, beautiful Victorian novel The Crimson Petal and the White dusts off Dickens

Books may not be as popular as movies or TV or music these days, but you have to hand it to them: they're still our filthiest medium, God bless 'em. You can get away with things on paper that you could never sing about or show onscreen. Michel Faber's colossal, kaleidoscopic new novel, The Crimson Petal and the White (Harcourt, 838 pages), tells the story of a prostitute in Victorian England, and if it's ever filmed, it'll be rated around an NC-45. But it also hints that reading and sex have a lot in common: both are a uniquely intimate exchange...

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