Finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction
“[These stories] vibrate with originality, queerness, sensuality and the strange.”—Roxane Gay
“In these formally brilliant and emotionally charged tales, Machado gives literal shape to women’s memories and hunger and desire. I couldn’t put it down.”—Karen Russell
In Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado blithely demolishes the arbitrary borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. While her work has earned her comparisons to Karen Russell and Kelly Link, she has a voice that is all her own. In this electric and provocative debut, Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.
A wife refuses her husband’s entreaties to remove the green ribbon from around her neck. A woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague slowly consumes humanity. A salesclerk in a mall makes a horrifying discovery within the seams of the store’s prom dresses. One woman’s surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted houseguest. And in the bravura novella “Especially Heinous,” Machado reimagines every episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a show we naïvely assumed had shown it all, generating a phantasmagoric police procedural full of doppelgängers, ghosts, and girls with bells for eyes.
Earthy and otherworldly, antic and sexy, queer and caustic, comic and deadly serious, Her Body and Other Parties swings from horrific violence to the most exquisite sentiment. In their explosive originality, these stories enlarge the possibilities of contemporary fiction.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
The stories in Carmen Maria Machado’s brilliant collection twist and writhe like snakes—they’re mysterious, frightening, otherworldly. From a wickedly funny reimagining of Law & Order: SVU in which detective Benson is afflicted by a swarm of ghosts to a woman’s laundry-list homage to all her past lovers as the world around her succumbs to an apocalyptic disease, Machado dares to mash up genres and claw at painful emotions. Every story gets to a painful, poignant truth about what it is to be a girl or woman in this world. This is an unforgettable read that feels powerfully and painfully relevant right now.
Machado creates eerie, inventive worlds shimmering with supernatural swerves in this engrossing debut collection. Her stories make strikingly feminist moves by combining elements of horror and speculative fiction with women's everyday crises. Machado builds entire interior lives through sparse and minor details, turning even litanies of refrigerator contents and free-association on the coming of autumn into memorable meditations on identity and female disempowerment. Queerness permeates these tales, shaping the women and their problems, with a recurring focus on the inherent strangeness of female bodies. These bodies face an epidemic of inexplicable evaporation ("Real Women Have Bodies"), linger as distorted masses beyond weight-loss surgery ("Eight Bites"), or gain the ability to hear the thoughts of actors in porn ("Difficult at Parties"). "The Husband Stitch" makes explicit the hidden sexuality of creepy urban legends. In "Especially Heinous," Machado rewrites 12 seasons of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, riffing on the titles as she imagines Benson haunted by victims, Stabler beset by domestic drama, and both competing with more efficient doppelgangers. Machado's slightly slanted world echoes our own in ways that will entertain, challenge, and move readers.
Overall, quite good
The greatest downfall of this book is the story styled after Law & Order - it’s nonsensical and it tries too hard. It bogs the book down so badly.
Fantastical, phantasmic, feminist
Not my usual style, these short stories were an interesting read. For any Law & Order SVU fans, her story in that vein is a must read.
A must read!