Her Body & Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
Her Body & Other Parties is an exhilarating fiction debut – a wild, sprawling collection of stories that explore the reality of being a woman. Carmen Maria Machado draws from fairy tales, science fiction, queer theory, pop culture and horror to craft something that is exquisitely strange, yet devastatingly relatable.
Familiar stories and tropes are turned on their head. ‘The Husband Stitch’ opens the collection and it’s a knock-out. Machado reimagines the macabre campfire ghost tale of a woman who refuses to remove a green ribbon from around her neck, transforming it into a blistering indictment of societal expectations on women. Tucked into the middle of the book is the brilliantly inventive ‘Especially Heinous’. Structured around the first 12 seasons of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, this novella renders the well-trod beats of the ubiquitous police procedural into something otherworldly and utterly original. In Machado’s vision, the show’s continual violence against women has supernatural consequences that will haunt readers along with the characters.
Women are never safe in the world of this book. They’re assaulted or murdered, harassed by doppelgangers, haunted by ghosts, sewn into fabric. In one story, women are simply evaporating into thin air. All too frequently, it is their own bodies that betray them and Machado powerfully evokes the physicality of our lives. Her prose bubbles with energy – voracious and sensual, playful and acerbic, tender and brutal. There are moments of pure pleasure to be found; Machado has a barbed sense of humour and she writes joyously of sex: ‘I come fast and hard, like a bottle breaking against a wall’.
Machado’s book sits easily alongside the works of authors such as Angela Carter, Shirley Jackson, Helen Oyeyemi, Kelly Link and Karen Russell. As with them, she writes the kind of fiction that reveals truths about our world where non-fiction couldn’t. Her Body & Other Parties is a thrilling, queer, feminist delight; I want everyone I know to read it.