Her Body & Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado
All hail the new queen. Carmen Maria Machado and her story collection Her Body & Other Parties, gothic feminist surrealist horror crossed with fairy tales and contemporary storytelling, is a dream of a book which will give you nightmares for weeks.
I was gripped and intrigued by the first story in this collection, ‘The Husband Stitch’, about a couple who adore each other physically and intimately for many years. The woman keeps only one part of her a secret, out of bounds to her husband, and this is the ribbon she wears around her neck. Despite everything else she offers him, this of course is the one bite he most desires, which leads to terrible consequences.
But how, I thought, can Machado keep up this Angela Carter-esque interrogation of the fairy-tale genre and violence against women, but she pulls it out of the bag again and again in the seven following stories.
I shouldn’t say she ‘pulls it out of the bag’, not only for the cliché but because this is a writer working at an incredibly high level, blending skill, experience, inventiveness, and sheer brilliance to make the most unlikely of sci-fi scenarios and futuristic dystopias leap off the page with blinding clarity.
If you ever thought you were the weird one at parties, or said out loud something you felt deeply but which shocked everyone else, or have wondered if you could get through a day on ‘Eight Bites’ of food, read these stories.
And if you’re desperately trying to write something meaningful, ‘The Resident’ will offer respite and guidance.
As I read through the collection, each new page struck me with how bold Machado is, how brave her writing is for its willingness to grab everything by the guts and then squelch them underfoot, her steadfastness within the truth of our bodies, our minds, our weaknesses and out nightmares, her fuck you approach to structure, voice and character, knowing she masters it all.
At the end of the year I’m going to have to add up the cost of all the amazing books I borrowed from the library and now desperately wish I own. For now I offer you this beauty for £6.85 on Hive. And I see she has a new book out in early January, In the Dream House.