Her Body and Other Parties
By Carmen Maria Machado
Paperback, 245 pages
2017, Graywolf Press
This collection of shorts focuses on women, the lives they lead and the experiences they have, simply because they are women. Many have a dash of supernatural, paranormal or horror elements, blurring the lines between reality and fiction.
After reading Help Me Follow My Sister Into the Land of the Dead (a short included in a PageHabit box), I enjoyed the way Machado blended a paranormal situation into our current reality and I was excited to discover more of her work. While I enjoy her tone and style, this collection as a whole underwhelmed me.
Of the 8 stories in this collection, only a few were really stellar for me. Often, after completing a story I was left making my “huh?” face and thinking what I’d just read was much too deep for me. One story even had me thinking “what the fuck just happened” and not in the way where you’re like, blown away by how some crazy shit when down, but in the way where I like, literally don’t understand anything I just read.
I think those of you who read more critically or prefer less obvious messages will enjoy this collection more than I did. I kept feeling like I was missing something – I feel like I don’t have what it takes to fully appreciate what Machado is doing here. Or maybe she’s not trying to do anything and I’m just attempting to look at something more deeply than necessary. Who knows.
I wanted to gush over this collection, I really did. I thought it would be one of those reviews where I just sit here and say stuff like “GUYS. GUYS. IT’s GOOD, REaD IT!”
As I said earlier, however, I do love her writing style, even if the content didn’t exactly jazz me. Her stories are rich and she doesn’t shy away from her female characters using crass language or being open about their sexual desires (if it’s not already obvious, this is a collection for adults). Her characters and scenarios were certainly bold.
The Husband Stich – A (very adult) retelling of the green ribbon tale told through the eyes of a woman as she moves through the stages of lover, wife and mother and the men in her life refuse to ignore the temptation of her mysterious ribbon. It’s also sprinkled with tidbits of other horror stories, some familiar to me, others not.
Inventory – I think this was my favorite. A story that starts out as a woman categorizing her various lovers and relationships and slowly turns into a post-apocalyptic tale. This is something I’d love as a full-length novel, but I think the short format and minimal details really fit the scenario.
Especially Heinous – Machado writes descriptions inspired by the titles of 272 episodes of Law & Order SVU (a show I’ve never seen and turns out, was picturing the wrong characters for) which become increasingly creepy, sometimes depressing, and full of paranormal elements. At first I was a little puzzled by the brief episode summaries, but as the “seasons” went on, I was absorbed in the strange tale and would certainly have watched the show if that’s how it was written.
The Resident – Overall, I didn’t enjoy this tale or its characters, but I did love the major creepy vibes it gave me almost from the start. This one was a bit gross at times and highly puzzling, but made me want to read more along the traditional horror vein from Machado.
While I won’t be revisiting this collection, I will be looking forward to more fiction from Machado.
I recommend this if:
+ You enjoy complex women, sexual exploration and a touch of the haunted and supernatural
+ You want to read a collection of shorts that will make you think
+ You’re looking for some own voices LGBT shorts
Machado’s website (which, by the way, has an awesome and haunting main page image)