Her Body and Other Parties
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 naively assumed had shown it all, generating a phantasmagoric police procedural full of doppelgangers, 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.

Her Body and Other Parties Details

TitleHer Body and Other Parties
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseOct 3rd, 2017
PublisherGraywolf Press
ISBN-139781555977887
Rating
GenreShort Stories, Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Feminism, Magical Realism

Her Body and Other Parties Review

  • Emily May
    January 1, 1970
    This is a difficult review to write because I have a lot of mixed feelings.Her Body and Other Parties is like most short story collections I have read in that some of the stories worked for me far more than others. It is a strange, experimental, feminist collection that often crosses into fantasy, dystopia and/or magical realism. Some of the stories stepped out of the land of weird into, I feel, the land of nonsensical and absurdist. I liked these stories less than the others.Perhaps it is somew This is a difficult review to write because I have a lot of mixed feelings.Her Body and Other Parties is like most short story collections I have read in that some of the stories worked for me far more than others. It is a strange, experimental, feminist collection that often crosses into fantasy, dystopia and/or magical realism. Some of the stories stepped out of the land of weird into, I feel, the land of nonsensical and absurdist. I liked these stories less than the others.Perhaps it is somewhat plebeian of me to say so, but I preferred the stories with actual, you know, stories and a structural narrative. My favourites were the much-lauded "The Husband Stitch", "Eight Bites", and "Difficult At Parties". "The Husband Stitch" is a retelling of "The Green Ribbon" with emphasis on the demands men and society place on women, and their sense of entitlement toward women's bodies. I especially liked how the author played around with form, including stage directions for the reader who is “reading this story out loud”. "Eight Bites" is about a woman's relationship with food and her fat self as she considers and then gets bariatric surgery. Machado's evocative writing really worked when delving into a food/body obsession. "Difficult At Parties" - about a woman trying to deal with the aftermath of sexual assault by watching porn - is another narrative that got right under my skin.I also enjoyed "The Resident", in which an artist's retreat in the mountains leads to a writer slowly coming undone. It contained a darkly comical line that is one of my favourite quotes in the collection: “Do you ever worry,” she asked me, “that you’re the madwoman in the attic?” "Mothers", on the other hand, was a bit too abstract for me. I'd be lying if I claimed to really understand what happened. Though my least favourites were "Inventory" and "Especially Heinous". The former lists the narrator's sexual experiences throughout her life in snippets, as a vague post-apocalyptic scenario plays out in the background. "Especially Heinous" should have been called "Especially Tedious". It rewrites the episode plot summaries for twelve seasons of Law & Order: SVU in snippets that gave me flashbacks to Lincoln in the Bardo. It's just page after page of disconnected plot summaries that didn't come together and do anything. I wanted it to end.However, just in general - and this can hardly be considered Machado's fault - I am growing a little tired of these feminist tales that hold such a grim definition of womanhood and femininity. Where we are painted as humans owned in parts by various men and corporations, where sex is cold and passionless, where we are seen to be masturbating furiously whenever our vaginas aren’t bleeding, which seems to be 80% of the time with all the hymens, birthing and, of course, menstruation. Maybe this is to make women seem harder, more brutal, less maternal and nurturing and cuddly and weak… but it’s a bleak alternative. This book, in particular, is heavy on the sex. I have no problem with sex and sexuality, but it's extremely detached and unemotional. It's an orgasm with a straight face. It's this quote from "Real Women Have Bodies" when the narrator's girlfriend is dying/fading: “We have never fucked with such urgency as we do in these weeks, but she is fading more and feeling less. She comes infrequently.” It is sometimes very strange how sex and coming are the most important things in scenes where it seems like far more important things are happening. It made it especially difficult to read through "Inventory", which is little more than a repetitive listing of unsexy sex throughout a woman's life.My personal thoughts about the direction of feminist lit aside, I thought Her Body and Other Parties was pretty mixed overall. I would recommend Gay's Difficult Women, 404 Ink's Nasty Women or Enriquez's Things We Lost in the Fire before this book. Though some stories are definitely worth checking out.Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube
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  • Roxane
    January 1, 1970
    The stories in Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties vibrate with originality, queerness, sensuality and the strange. Her voracious imagination and extraordinary voice beautifully bind these stories about fading women and the end of the world and men who want more when they’ve been given everything and bodies, so many human bodies taking up space and straining the seams of skin in impossible, imperfect, unforgettable ways.
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  • Larry H
    January 1, 1970
    I'd rate this 4.5 stars.If you think of works of fiction like works of art, Carmen Maria Machado's debut story collection, Her Body and Other Parties , is an abstract painting. It's undoubtedly gorgeous and attention-getting, there's no one right way to interpret the things you see (or read), everyone will see something different in it, and each time you look, you'll catch something you didn't see the first time. You may also find yourself wondering, "What did that mean?"Seven of the eight stor I'd rate this 4.5 stars.If you think of works of fiction like works of art, Carmen Maria Machado's debut story collection, Her Body and Other Parties , is an abstract painting. It's undoubtedly gorgeous and attention-getting, there's no one right way to interpret the things you see (or read), everyone will see something different in it, and each time you look, you'll catch something you didn't see the first time. You may also find yourself wondering, "What did that mean?"Seven of the eight stories in this collection are a mesmerizing combination of atmosphere, sexuality, emotion, and gorgeous, gorgeous storytelling. There is also a strange undercurrent of creepiness running through many of the stories. I'll admit I was a little bit nervous while reading, and I kept waiting for something horrible, for a bogeyman to reveal itself, or some shocking event to occur. That tension is almost addictive, because you want to keep on reading, wondering just what Machado has up her sleeve. The stories that stood out the most for me were "Inventory," in which a woman recounts her sexual exploits as the world is slowly being consumed by an unexplained plague; "Real Women Have Bodies," where a young woman working at a prom dress shop makes a shocking discovery about what makes the store's gowns so unique; "Eight Bites," about a woman visited by an unwanted houseguest after weight loss surgery; the immensely creepy "The Resident," in which a writer at an artist's colony has trouble with the lines blurring between past and present, fact and fiction; and the sexy, mysterious "The Husband Stitch," where a woman's husband has been begging her for years to remove the green ribbon from around her neck, but she never has.The one story, which is more of a novella, that absolutely didn't work for me, was "Especially Heinous," a spoof of sorts of Law and Order: SVU , which provided brief synopses of 272 episodes of the show, adding supernatural elements, ramping up the show's sexual tension and emotional instability, and throwing in some mundane twists as well. I just didn't get it, and it dragged on far too long for me, but I've seen other reviews refer to this as the best in the collection, so what do I know? Her Body and Other Parties is a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction, and it is truly the debut of a dazzling, fearless new voice in the world of short stories. While I wish I could talk to someone about what they think happened in some of the stories, I honestly can't stop thinking about the worlds Machado created, and how masterfully she reeled me into them.This isn't a collection for those who like their stories to be more straightforward, or those uncomfortable with sex scenes both implied and explicit, but if you're in the mood for some genre-defying fiction, pick up this collection. You'll get to witness the start of what is sure to be an incredible career.See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....
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  • Melanie
    January 1, 1970
    This collection of short stories heavily emphasizes the violence that we put on women’s bodies. Whether it be sexual violence, physical violence, violence put on us by society, or violence we put on ourselves. This entire collection is absolutely haunting in the best way possible. I won’t forget this collection, ever. And these are all so queer, and so feminist, and invoked so many emotions from me. Carmen Maria Machado is beyond words talented, and I feel so very blessed to even have been able This collection of short stories heavily emphasizes the violence that we put on women’s bodies. Whether it be sexual violence, physical violence, violence put on us by society, or violence we put on ourselves. This entire collection is absolutely haunting in the best way possible. I won’t forget this collection, ever. And these are all so queer, and so feminist, and invoked so many emotions from me. Carmen Maria Machado is beyond words talented, and I feel so very blessed to even have been able to read this. I'm going to break down each short story with my thoughts, opinions, and individual star rating! ➽ THE HUSBAND STITCH - ★★★★★This is my second time reading this, and it is just as powerful and hard hitting as it was the first time around. You can read this for free from Granta!, and I implore each and every one of you who is reading this review to do yourself a favor and read this short story. This story is very feminist and very sexually explicit, but so damn important. It's about the life of a woman, who gives everything to men and never is allowed to keep anything for herself. It's about life's expectations on women, and how society shapes the choices we do and do not have. It's about how, no matter what, giving everything will never be good enough as a woman. It's about enjoying and exploring your sexuality, yet trying to cope with the shame. It's about never fully being able to become the person you are, but becoming the person your husband and/or family require you to be. It's about having children, who will just repeat the same vicious and unfair cycle. This is my favorite short story of all time and it deserves all the stars that Goodreads and every other book rating site has to offer. ➽ INVENTORY - ★★★★This is essentially an inventory list of all the sexual encounters this particular woman has had during her thirty years while her world escalates into chaos. I loved looking at this sexual exploration, journey, and acceptance. And it evoked such raw emotion from me. I just didn’t think it was as hard hitting as some of the others in the collection.Also, if you enjoyed this short story, please check out The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison! I honestly can’t recommend it enough, and both stories have a similar theme, feeling, and hauntingness to them. ➽ MOTHERS - ★★★This is a very metaphorical story that starts out with a woman being given a baby by her female lover that they created unbeknownst to the narrator. And I use the word narrator very loosely, because this story is very unreliable. You will constantly be unsure of what is real and what is not, but you slowly get to see a story unfold. I also wholeheartedly believe that this story is very open for interpretation, and what I got from it could be, and probably is, something very different from what you were able to take from it. And that in and of itself is beyond words beautiful. ➽ ESPECIALLY HEINOUS - ★★This is a retelling of each season and episode of Law & Order: SVU that dips into the realm of the paranormal, but because I have never seen that show (I know, I know) I don’t think I got that much enjoyment out of this one. I still thought it was so very smartly written, and it has that haunting feeling that I know associate with Carmen Maria Machado, but I just wasn’t as in love with this as I feel others will be.➽ REAL WOMEN HAVE BODIES - ★★★★★This story felt like a punch to the gut over and over and over. Words can be so powerful, and Carmen Maria Machado has perfected the craft of writing, I swear. Women in this world fade slowly and eventually become invisible. We get to see a dress shop, that puts youth and beautiful before all else, and a few of the workers are grasping to those values. Growing older, and feeling less valuable because of it, is a concept that many people in this world can’t deal with, without having to turn invisible. And I’m not going to lie to you and say that when I read that one of the characters of this book was twenty-nine that I didn’t try to suppress that visceral feeling that I don’t even have words for, but I wish so badly that I didn’t feel.➽ EIGHT BITES - ★★★★★First and foremost, this short story would be so very trigging for anyone who has battled any form of eating disorder before, so please use caution before reading this one. Food and body obsession is so very real, and people will go their entire lives never knowing peace with themselves because of it. This is a story about a woman who has struggled her entire life and has finally decided to get bariatric surgery. This story also heavily talks about how we pass these terrible feelings and values down to our daughters and other generations, over and over. ➽ THE RESIDENT - ★★★Like most of the stories in this collection, this story felt really personal to read. Like, autobiographical personal. This is about a woman who goes up to the mountains, where she also spent some of her youth as a Girl Scout, to work on her novel among other artists. We slowly get to see the writer slowly comes undone by her past and her present, but also embraces and comes to terms with who she is and how she is. It’s a beautiful mixture that I think most humans will really resonate with. ➽ DIFFICULT AT PARTIES - ★★★★This was probably the most raw feeling story for me, and it really left me feeling empty. This is about a woman dealing, coping, and trying to heal with the aftermath of a sexual assault. Between others trying to help her, to hoping her assailant is found, and trying to find some sort of peace within herself, she is using pornography as a healing mechanism. Again, this is going to really be hard for a lot of people to read, but it’s also going to hit home for so many readers that need stories like this. I really loved this collection, and I gave Her Body and Other Parties 4 stars overall, because out of a possible 40 stars (5 stars possible for each of the 8 stories) this collection accumulated 31 stars (77%). Please pick this up, this is such an important book for everyone to read, and I can’t recommend it enough. Blog | Twitter | Tumblr | Instagram | Youtube | Twitch Buddy read with Lilly, Elise, & Destiny! ❤
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  • Navidad Thelamour
    January 1, 1970
    2.5 starsCarmen Maria Machado's Her Body and Other Parties is a collection I was so excited to read I dragged a friend in to read it with me. We handed off back and forth who got to pick the next story, never going in order, and found ourselves surprisingly disappointed by each one. In all honesty, I was drawn to what Machado was trying to do here, to what she was trying to say. But, she didn't say it with enough force. Some of her stories, such as "Real Women Have Bodies" and "Eight Bites" seem 2.5 starsCarmen Maria Machado's Her Body and Other Parties is a collection I was so excited to read I dragged a friend in to read it with me. We handed off back and forth who got to pick the next story, never going in order, and found ourselves surprisingly disappointed by each one. In all honesty, I was drawn to what Machado was trying to do here, to what she was trying to say. But, she didn't say it with enough force. Some of her stories, such as "Real Women Have Bodies" and "Eight Bites" seemed to not amount to much more than a harsh whisper, if that, never fully realizing themselves. I wanted more--MORE from a voice that dared to tackle such bold topics as the female experience and psyche. And by "more" I don't mean argumentative or domineering in tone; some of my favorite short stories ever crept up on me with a gentle breeze at my neck only to bowl me over in the end with words just as gentle. Machado and Her Body didn't do that for me. In fact, what I remember most about this collection is my buddy reader's and my disappointed-mounting-to-annoyed reaction as each story was read and discussed. For such a topic that spoke to us, we both wanted to learn something, to feel something--something. This collection just fell flat in so many ways.Here's what I will say: Carmen Maria Machado clearly has something to say, though I, myself, didn't hear it loudly enough. I thoroughly enjoyed her use of Gothic elements--vaguely supernatural devices used to convey her thoughts, to tinge her messages in wonder. Yet, some of her works were too referential without adding enough to the conversation to warrant the blatant references (to "The Girl with the Ribbon Around her Neck" and Law & Order: SVU in particular). "The Husband Stitch" was my favorite story, because of the unique and haunting asides inserted into the narrative, but the ending failed to shock or move me, so even that story did not live up to the hype around this collection. Every story I read left me wishing there was more--not length but meat and substance, not words but voice and resonance. As we all know, fabulously original ideas must, too, be supported by the execution of them, and that I did not see impressively done here. 2.5* FOLLOW ME AT:The Navi Review Blog | Twitter | Instagram
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  • Elyse
    January 1, 1970
    It’s 3am... I really need to fall back to sleep ...but I couldn’t stop reading these stories so before I drift off..I’ll just say a few things...ITS NOT FOR THE TIMID....I had read two of the stories yesterday and couldn’t stop talking to Paul about them on our hike yesterday. I was trying to figure them out. They are easy to read - but requires our interpretation. I just now finished the rest... some were even harder to wrap my head around. These are literary - kinda brilliant- short stories-wh It’s 3am... I really need to fall back to sleep ...but I couldn’t stop reading these stories so before I drift off..I’ll just say a few things...ITS NOT FOR THE TIMID....I had read two of the stories yesterday and couldn’t stop talking to Paul about them on our hike yesterday. I was trying to figure them out. They are easy to read - but requires our interpretation. I just now finished the rest... some were even harder to wrap my head around. These are literary - kinda brilliant- short stories-which a classroom discussion could enhance. Lots of SEX..so let’s just get that out there ....However sex in these stories is a broad word. The writing is beautiful- gorgeous- addictive- intense - elegant - powerful - disturbing- erotic - heartbreaking- horrific - Women are vulnerable- their souls are split open - there is a sense of doom - I still don’t understand all of these stories and I’m not sure I’m suppose to... and a few I liked more than others Paul and I discussed the symbolism of a green ribbon - We talked about a story ‘Inventory’ .... sex partners....The last story - ( I knew it was from rape) - but it’s not graphic..... left me hurting,At the same time there is life energy in these stories through women’s bodies....beautiful women’s bodies...A thought provoking unique collection of stories by one hell of a gifted artistic writer ....I’m left breathless!!!!
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  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    January 1, 1970
    I ordered this for my library but grew impatient and listened to it on Hoopla instead. It is one of the finalists for the 2017 National Book Award (USA.)This is a book of short stories, all centering around the female body, as evidenced by the title. This would not be a book for anyone who shocks easily, as there is sex, a lot of sex, some of it queer sex, and some of it deals with the aftermath of sexual assault. Some of the themes are disturbing, and the insertion at times of supernatural or f I ordered this for my library but grew impatient and listened to it on Hoopla instead. It is one of the finalists for the 2017 National Book Award (USA.)This is a book of short stories, all centering around the female body, as evidenced by the title. This would not be a book for anyone who shocks easily, as there is sex, a lot of sex, some of it queer sex, and some of it deals with the aftermath of sexual assault. Some of the themes are disturbing, and the insertion at times of supernatural or fantastical elements make many of the stories feel even more dangerous than real life, or maybe it's that they highlight the danger of real life. The writing is powerful and I would not be surprised to see this win the award, although I'm still slightly more on board with Sing, Unburied, Sing.Story by story:The Husband Stitch - This is a retelling of The Girl with the Ribbon Around her Neck, but somehow the husband is more domineering, and the lengthening of the story brings you more into her point of view.Inventory - A list of sexual encounters inside the context of a world falling apart due to a virus. This might be my favorite!Mothers - A disturbing story where I couldn't tell what was real and what was not. A baby delivered by her lesbian partner, told "this is your baby," But then she is running through the park after stranger babies...Especially Heinous - I could not understand what was going on here, and had to stop and look up some info about the book. The author has taken every episode of SVU, the show that focuses on sex crimes, usually against women, and builds an alternative story where women have bell eyes and something supernatural is going on and I just didn't really get it at all. I'm sure if I had any familiarity at all with SVU the characters at least would make sense to me, but this was rough. And since it was in audio, I couldn't tell if this was a series of very short stories (flash stories) or what I was encountering, because the author keeps the title of each episode and then has a paragraph or a sentence after each. I wish it had an intro or something, at least to navigate the audio verison.Real Women Have Bodies - If women really grew invisible....Eight Bites - Well I'm not quite sure, but I think this is about weight loss surgery and the sacrifice of thin and what it does to our daughters? It's rather frightening.The Resident - This one examines whether female writers are allowed to write about themselves the same way male writers are, what makes something art, how much autonomy do you have as a creative person?Difficult at Parties - A woman has gone through severe trauma and starts hearing the thoughts of actors on film.. and in the background, a spouse trying desperately to help.
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  • Simon
    January 1, 1970
    A crazy sometimes conflicting collection of fabulist tales. When this collection works, on tales of women with ribbons on their bodies, sexual encounters during a world ending epidemic, women literally vanishing in their skin and people who can hear the inner thoughts of adult film stars when they are watching porn, it is amazing. But occasionally like with a twist on an America hit series and all it’s nine seasons of episodes or a tale of mothers that gets too other, it lost me a touch. That sa A crazy sometimes conflicting collection of fabulist tales. When this collection works, on tales of women with ribbons on their bodies, sexual encounters during a world ending epidemic, women literally vanishing in their skin and people who can hear the inner thoughts of adult film stars when they are watching porn, it is amazing. But occasionally like with a twist on an America hit series and all it’s nine seasons of episodes or a tale of mothers that gets too other, it lost me a touch. That said the brilliance won over. It’s a crazy, creepy, queer, quirky, fantastical, fabulist, sinister and sexual collection, read it.
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  • Hannah
    January 1, 1970
    I was really looking forward to this book, ever since I saw a review by Roxane Gay for this; then when I read and loved one of these short stories earlier this year I was even more excited - and I was not disappointed in the least. I absolutely adored these stories and what Carmen Maria Machado has to offer. She writes just the kind of slightly unsettling and very upsetting short stories that I just adore. Her stories are twisted and mean but also beautiful beyond words. They have a core feminis I was really looking forward to this book, ever since I saw a review by Roxane Gay for this; then when I read and loved one of these short stories earlier this year I was even more excited - and I was not disappointed in the least. I absolutely adored these stories and what Carmen Maria Machado has to offer. She writes just the kind of slightly unsettling and very upsetting short stories that I just adore. Her stories are twisted and mean but also beautiful beyond words. They have a core feminist message while also being stylistically awesome and never losing sight of the humanity at the core of them. The stories are highly inventive, can be read both as a social commentary and often as love stories, her characters feel real and her language is precise and wonderful. As is usually the case I adored some stories more than others but overall this was a very strong collection and I can absolutely understand the praise it has garnered (it has been blurbed by Roxane Gay and Jeff VanderMeer among others). I loved "The Husband Stitch" (this is the story I had read before), maybe even more so the second time around: this inventive rumination on what secrets women are allowed to keep made me mad and sad at the same time.In "Inventory" a woman looks back on her past lovers as the world comes to an literal end around her. This story felt very different than the rest of the collection but I loved its wistful melancholy and the bleak surrounding Carmen Maria Machado evoked.My favourite of the bunch was the novella "Especially Heinous", written as short blurbs for a TV show (think "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" ) filled with ghosts with bells for eyes and doppelgängers that are eerily similar but very creepy. This story was unsettling and creepy but also packed an immense emotional punch.
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  • Joe Valdez
    January 1, 1970
    Her Body and Other Parties is the debut book by Carmen Maria Machado, whose movie reviews I was familiar with in the Los Angeles Times. Published in 2017, I bit on this short story collection with the publisher's promise of fiction that "borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism." I found it to be rough in terms of quality control, a talented beginner trying way too hard. The first and second of eight pieces are terrific but everything tha Her Body and Other Parties is the debut book by Carmen Maria Machado, whose movie reviews I was familiar with in the Los Angeles Times. Published in 2017, I bit on this short story collection with the publisher's promise of fiction that "borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism." I found it to be rough in terms of quality control, a talented beginner trying way too hard. The first and second of eight pieces are terrific but everything that follows alternates wildly between undeveloped workshop draft and smart ass social media post. Obscurity overwhelms clarity."The Husband Stitch" is the tale of a woman who wears a green ribbon around her neck that she never removes. At seventeen, she meets the man she'll marry, and manages to keep her ribbon and its secrets secure until their son goes off to college. The Writing (with a capital W, ugh) is style heavy--which should have been a red flag for me--but Machado did keep me unsettled throughout by grounding her story in the patterns of an old wives tale or urban legend. The piece has momentum and does lead the reader somewhere. For those like me who've never read Machado's fiction, this piece easily made me want to read more beguiling tales of women on the edge of reason."Inventory" is one woman's diary of her sexual partners. The seventh entry in her little black book indicates that all may not be right with the world as an epidemic spreads from Northern California, impacting each of her subsequent entries. This is bar none the best piece. After the style choice of diary format gets familiar, there's an actual story here. Machado's writing is fraught with tension and put me on edge. I wanted to know more about the world that was developing and how her narrator would survive it. This piece had me sold that I had a great debut book on my hands."Mothers" is about a woman whose bad romance (with a woman named Bad) culminates in her lover delivering a baby. It was not clear to me what the fuck was going on in this story. This is one of those pieces you discuss at book club, with everyone taking a turn describing what they think they read and together, you figure out what happened. Was there really a baby? Was the narrator really going crazy? What really happened in the house? Really? This sort of Writing is not for me and may not be for anyone who likes story and characters. Machado is also doing things in Capital Letters at this point. She seems to be trying too hard."Especially Heinous (272 Views of Law & Order SVU)" are little joke synopses of fake episodes of the long-running detective show. Apparently, Machado is a big time SVU fan and might have been compelled to write what she knows, but this is one most obnoxious things I've ever read in a book. A blog post or series of Tweets this dopey wouldn't have bothered me because social media and snark go hand in hand. As a fiction reader, though, I hate jokes. After three pages, I gave up and skipped to the next story, hoping that Machado might regain some quality control over the book. Not every pitch is going to be a strike ..."Real Women Have Bodies" is about a college grad working at a Forever 21 type store in a mall. She's seduced by a girl who supplies the retailer with women's garments and in a twist that gets the book back on track, women around the world are becoming non-corporeal, losing their mass. This piece comes closest to having story and characters and I did find myself becoming affected by the romance. The dark fantasy conceit isn't given priority and Machado is still too vague to be completely satisfying, but this was a decent piece."Eight Bites" is about a woman who has a gastric-bypass type medical procedure and is sort of visited by the entity she shed. This conceit cannot hold the story built on top of it and on that basis, I checked out of it."The Resident" is about a woman who drives into the mountains to take part in a funded fellowship for writers and artists so she can finish her novel. The residency also happens to be on the same lake she attended Girls Scouts camp at. Of course, the woman will experience strange things. Of course, the reader will wonder if what she's experiencing is real or has some Meaning. Of course, I hated this. "Difficult At Parties" is about a woman who experiencing some bad trauma coming home and trying to adjust. Her relationship with a man is as unclear as what happened to her or what she's experiencing. Her Body and Other Parties may be best recommended for those who enjoy writing, with lots of meaningful themes intentionally woven into them. I can't think of anything worse to spend my time reading. Maybe an alt-right manifesto. Some have described the book as "feminist," but I don't know what that means in terms of fiction. An author either creates a compelling story and characters, or she doesn't. There isn't a single piece in this book I'd want to tell someone about and for that reason, I can't recommend it. Machado errs on the side of obscurity, and errs a lot.
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  • Blair
    January 1, 1970
    In her debut collection of short stories, Carmen Maria Machado mingles fabulism, body horror, erotica and feminist commentary. The thrust of Her Body and Other Parties is perhaps best encapsulated by the second story in the book, 'Inventory'. It starts with the narrator cataloguing everyone she's slept with, taking on that now-near-compulsory clinical tone, that Muumuu House type of thing of talking endlessly about sex but doing so in an affectless style that doesn't communicate any passion or j In her debut collection of short stories, Carmen Maria Machado mingles fabulism, body horror, erotica and feminist commentary. The thrust of Her Body and Other Parties is perhaps best encapsulated by the second story in the book, 'Inventory'. It starts with the narrator cataloguing everyone she's slept with, taking on that now-near-compulsory clinical tone, that Muumuu House type of thing of talking endlessly about sex but doing so in an affectless style that doesn't communicate any passion or joy or pleasure. It suddenly becomes more interesting when a hidden narrative emerges: as the narrator progresses through her later conquests, she talks of a pervasive virus, family members lost, a quarantine zone, evacuations and refugees. It's an unexpected approach to the dystopian theme and a pleasing subversion of first impressions, yet the story as a whole remains unsatisfying.Then there's the much-discussed and multi-award-nominated 'The Husband Stitch', a modern fable which updates the campfire tale 'The Green Ribbon'. Like the original, it is a horror story with a gruesome twist, but the true horrors here are ordinary ones: the husband's insistence that the wife have nothing of her own; the titular stitch itself. In striving for a fairytale flavour, Machado uses a mannered voice that renders her narrator smug and oddly prudish even as she recounts exhausting quantities of sex (a recurring motif, as you may already have guessed). I did enjoy her wry stage directions: 'If you are reading this story out loud, move aside the curtain to illustrate this final point to your listeners. It'll be raining, I promise.'Among the weaker stories is 'Especially Heinous', which reimagines plot summaries of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episodes through a surrealist lens, playing on the ubiquity of violence against women in such shows. This starts out as a cute absurdist gimmick, but it's about five times longer than it needs to be. Some images (the ghosts with bells for eyes; the grotesque secret of the dresses in 'Real Women Have Bodies') just don't make enough sense to work, much less shock. There's always an emptiness, something missing. (And there are so many instances of 'inside of' in these stories – inside of me, inside of her, inside of him, I swear it feels like every other paragraph in some stories. I wish an editor had taken their scalpel to those 'of's.)My favourite was 'The Resident'. While the subject matter is slightly more staid than some of the others – presumably semi-autobiographical in its portrait of a writer unravelling during a retreat – it's a relief that it isn't told at a cold, impersonal remove. It actually has heart and a personality, unlike so many of the others, and contains one of the few truly rousing scenes in the book, when the narrator lashes out at a patronising acquaintance and defends her right to write about 'crazy' heroines and madwomen in attics. This could be read as a manifesto for the collection as a whole (but isn't enough to save it). Also strong is 'Eight Bites', in which the weight the protagonist loses through bariatric surgery takes on a life of its own.It's difficult to articulate without sounding like an idiot who's missed the point entirely, but there's something I find so depressing about the kind of writing that's ostensibly feminist but seems to focus incessantly on the negatives of being a woman. In fiction such as this, the approach is often paired with candid-yet-detached writing about sex that I also find offputting (not to mention extremely unsexy). The stories are well-crafted and (when they don't feel workshopped to death) spark with strong ideas and entertaining metafictional touches, but Her Body and Other Parties didn't work for me the way I hoped it would.If you enjoyed this I'd recommend the following (all short story collections): Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enríquez The Doll's Alphabet by Camilla Grudova Intimations by Alexandra Kleeman Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh The Babysitter at Rest by Jen GeorgeI received an advance review copy of Her Body and Other Parties from the publisher through NetGalley.TinyLetter | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr
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  • Mackenzi
    January 1, 1970
    *long keening noise only uttered in the shadow of a perfect book*
  • Elise (TheBookishActress)
    January 1, 1970
    “I choose this life,” the prostitute says to the social worker. “I do. Please put your energy into helping girls who aren’t here by choice.” She is so right. She is murdered anyway. Strange, visceral, but altogether, just too confusing for me.I would recommend this to those who loved the metaphorical side of Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women. (Before you ask, I was not one of those people.) Because these stories... well, you’re not going to enjoy them unless you get them, at least partially. And to “I choose this life,” the prostitute says to the social worker. “I do. Please put your energy into helping girls who aren’t here by choice.” She is so right. She is murdered anyway. Strange, visceral, but altogether, just too confusing for me.I would recommend this to those who loved the metaphorical side of Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women. (Before you ask, I was not one of those people.) Because these stories... well, you’re not going to enjoy them unless you get them, at least partially. And to be quite honest, some of my disappointment was just plain too-high expectations. The Husband Stitch was the only Machado I’d read before, and I adored it. I expected something even better. It is the only five I gave within this collection. I feel like some asshole on twitter is going to find this book and decide to call everyone who didn’t get this a typical straight feminist or whatever, so to clarify: I’m a huge lesbian and the women kissing were not the confusing part. I really appreciated how unapologetically queer this collection is, and would definitely recommend it in my stack of great queer fiction. ♔ The Husband Stitch - ★★★★★I read this twice earlier due to Melanie's awesome recommendation. This is a story about being consumed, losing your own agency, and how much you can give before you break. One thing is clear, though; it's worth the read. There were a few metaphors here I only understood on the second and third reads due to sheer exhaustion, which is really upsetting - I feel like this would be my fave story ever otherwise. You can read this story here. ♚ Inventory - ★★★★☆A story of a woman’s sex life as a plague destroys her world. Honestly, I don't even know what this was. Okay, I do; it’s an exploration of how sex alone can reflect an environment. There's this sort of raw quality to it, but I can't say it ever really got under my skin, and the character work could’ve been far stronger. ♔ Mothers - ★★★★☆No summary. Uhhh... somebody please explain what the hell this story's ending means? Because I honest to god do not understand. I think I kind of loved it, though. Maybe worth a reread. ♚ Especially Heinous - ★★★☆☆This is a slightly-too-long rundown of a series of Law and Order: SVU episodes. Using the real titles, Machado makes up an intriguing plot full of supernatural elements and twists. The ending of this worked perfectly for me, but the story itself was too long; twelve seasons is a lot of episodes and apparently, a lot of repetition. I got the point about dead prostitutes 30 pages in and at points it just kept going. Have to admit, though, that several of the episode descriptions will stay with me.♔ Real Women Have Bodies - ★★★★☆This story is one of women who become translucent over time. I really appreciated it; the detail is visceral and the emotion raw. It is far more metaphorical than I tend to prefer, though. ♚ Eight Bites - ★★★★☆An exploration of disordered eating and fatphobia in society especially among women! and yet I also just didn’t fucking understand 75% of this, so?♔ The Resident - ★★★☆☆This one is about confronting your past and all it comes with. The thematic conclusions are good, but unfortunately, I felt it was a bit overly long. ♚ Difficult at Parties - ★★☆☆☆I 👏 didn’t 👏 understand 👏 this 👏 at 👏 all 👏 what 👏 does 👏 it 👏 mean 👏ALL IN ALL: Good, but too metaphorical for my style and taste. I read one a night with Melanieand Destiny. Blog | Goodreads | Twitter | Youtube
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  • Riley
    January 1, 1970
    Actual rating: 3.5 Individual ratings:The Husband Stitch - 5 (by far my favorite in the collection)Inventory - 4.5Mothers - 3Especially Heinous - 2Real Women Have Bodies - 3.5Eight Bites - 4The Resident - 3Difficult at Parties - 4
  • destiny ☠ howling libraries
    January 1, 1970
    I have heard all of the stories about girls like me, and I am unafraid to make more of them. This anthology isn't so much a collection of stories as it is a collection of experiences. Carmen Maria Machado writes beautifully; her voice is so incredibly unique, and no matter the content of the tale, she transports you right into the scene - for better or for worse. I'll do my best to give you my thoughts on each story, but at the end of the day, this is the sort of collection that I highly recomm I have heard all of the stories about girls like me, and I am unafraid to make more of them. This anthology isn't so much a collection of stories as it is a collection of experiences. Carmen Maria Machado writes beautifully; her voice is so incredibly unique, and no matter the content of the tale, she transports you right into the scene - for better or for worse. I'll do my best to give you my thoughts on each story, but at the end of the day, this is the sort of collection that I highly recommend you simply pick up for yourself.→ The Husband Stitch ★★★★★ ←The anthology opens with a peculiar retelling of a classic horror legend: the woman with the ribbon around her throat, if you're familiar. The narrator carries us through her life: through meeting her significant other, wedding him, giving birth, the woes and beauties of motherhood, and more.She explores the paradox of being a woman who is proud of embracing her sexuality, while still, at times, noting the shame that society places upon her for it. She portrays the struggle of motherhood, and trying to do one's best despite all of the many obstacles that may cross a mother's path. Most of all, she explores feminism, and the fact that a woman, no matter how much she loves her partner or her child(ren), remains her own property at the end of the day. When a woman allows another human being to claim "ownership" of her, she loses herself. "Why do you want to hide it from me?""I'm not hiding it. It just isn't yours." → Inventory ★★★★☆ ←While the first story is metaphorical, the second story is literally an "inventory", or a history, of the narrator's sexual partners and relationships. This entry to the collection is incredibly explicit, but woven into the stories, we learn of a world coming to a halt, and an apocalyptic reality setting into place thanks to an unstoppable disease. Machado builds up a lovely but inescapable sense of impending dread.→ Mothers ★★★☆☆ ←The third entry begins with our narrator being handed a baby created by herself and her former female lover, and frankly, beyond this point, the rest of the story is a combination of beautiful, poetic narrative, and absolute chaos in the form of one of the most genuinely unreliable narrators I've ever read. If you enjoy unreliable narration and being left to piece things together for yourself, this will be right up your alley, but it was just a little too blurry and grey of an ending for my taste. One thing I will give Machado the utmost credit for in this story, though, is the incredible way she writes an abusive relationship. There were so many lines that were brutally familiar, but so cathartic, because they felt so raw and genuinely. There was no way for me to tell her that we are so close, we are so close, please don't do this now, we are so fucking close. → Especially Heinous ★★☆☆☆ ←This was my least favorite entry in the collection, though that doesn't mean it was bad. This one details an alternate universe of Law & Order: SVU in which there are ghosts of dead prostitutes with bells for eyes, doppelgangers dead-set on ruining lives, affairs, lost memories, and a character falling somewhere between mentally unwell and possessed. It follows several "seasons", with each "episode"'s synopsis ranging from a sentence to a paragraph. It was actually an incredibly unique idea, and I loved the metaphors being presented, but it overstayed its welcome and I found myself drudging through the last several pages.→ Real Women Have Bodies ★★★★☆ ←Out of all of the stories, this was the toughest for me to rate, because I felt like it could be interpreted so many different ways, and I found myself second-guessing what it meant to me. Our narrator, a dress shop employee, lives in a world where women keep disappearing. They don't vanish into thin air; instead, they simply wake up one day to find their bodies fading, until they become translucent, and then are gone for good. At first, I believed it to be a commentary on society's expectations of women in general, but at one point, the story explains that women are fading younger and younger, and suddenly, I was reading a story about a world in which women lose their value as they lose their youth, and their worth is "lost" earlier with each passing generation. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Soon, I'll be nothing more, too. None of us will make it to the end. → Eight Bites ★★★★★ ←As someone who has struggled with disordered eating, I have vowed to always be honest in my reviews, but to be especially candid when it comes to ED rep, because it so easily goes awry. Let me preface this first, though, by saying that I have never seen a representation of an eating disorder that is as raw, and authentic, and flawless as what I read in this short story. I felt like I was gasping for air at times. The story follows a woman who, after years of struggling with her weight, decides to have gastric surgery to assist her weight loss. She comes from a line of women who are "too large", and even reminisces on her mother's disordered habits from her youth, though she doesn't seem to grasp how her self-loathing has alienated her own overweight daughter, too. What follows her surgery is brutal, and familiar, and heartbreaking, and so cathartic. "You are unwanted," I say. → The Resident ★★★★☆ ←This was another tough one to rate, because it felt so incredibly personal; I literally, at multiple times, thought, "Am I reading an autobiography?" It tells the story of a writer who goes to a writer's retreat in an area where she once had a childhood "incident" with her Girl Scouts group, but we are left guessing as to what the incident was for most of the tale. In a nutshell, it's a story of learning to accept who you are and how you feel about yourself, as well as the world around you. "Do you ever listen to yourself? This is crazy, that is crazy, everything is crazy to you. By whose measure?" → Difficult At Parties ★★★★☆ ←Machado rounds out the ending of the book with a story about a woman who has suffered sexual assault and is trying to find her place in the world again with her new traumas. She wades through the police search for her attacker, as well as desperate attempts to become intimate with her lover once more, and ends up seeking comfort in pornographic films. This is a bizarre, tough read, but it's important, and like every other story in this collection, it painted a scene that served as a reminder of just how brutal life can be for women in this world.→ final thoughts & rating ★★★★☆ ←If I average everything up, I only actually gave this collection 3.88/5 stars, but overall, it felt like a 4- or even 4.5-star read. It is unapologetically feminist, queer, candid, and authentic. It is brutal at times, cathartic at others, and most of all, it is important. Be aware that it comes with nearly every trigger warning I can think of, but do yourself a favor and pick up a copy.
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  • Thomas
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 starsA scintillating, sexually-charged short story collection that centers the emotions and experiences of queer women. Carmen Maria Machado writes about women's most pressing desires and their most difficult challenges. Almost all of the stories contain some element of fantasy or science fiction, such as women whose bodies disappear or a world that comes to an end because of a terrifying disease. Through these unique, uncomfortable narratives, Machado explores the pleasure and pain of women 3.5 starsA scintillating, sexually-charged short story collection that centers the emotions and experiences of queer women. Carmen Maria Machado writes about women's most pressing desires and their most difficult challenges. Almost all of the stories contain some element of fantasy or science fiction, such as women whose bodies disappear or a world that comes to an end because of a terrifying disease. Through these unique, uncomfortable narratives, Machado explores the pleasure and pain of women and their bodies, as well as the violence men often enact onto women's bodies. My favorite stories included "Eight Bites," which follows a woman who gets gastric bypass surgery and examines body image and self-esteem and how others influence our relationship with food, "The Husband Stitch," which interrogates male entitlement to women's bodies, and "Real Women Have Bodies," which explores a world in which women's bodies disappear and draws parallels to how society treats women and their bodies now.Overall, a genre-bending collection of stories that gives much-needed space to the narratives of queer women. I only detract from my rating because I struggled to connect with the characters in these stories aside from the three I named, as the fabulist or fantastical elements dominated the narrative or the narrative did not go on for long enough for me to feel invested (as often is the case with short stories). Still, I would recommend this collection to those interested in dark, sensual stories about women and their bodies.
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  • Justin Tate
    January 1, 1970
    Let me first say that Carmen Maria Machado is a brilliant writer. All throughout this book I was in awe of her use of language. She's also a visionary. These stories are imaginative, original, and intriguing in ways that far exceed the typical literary output of Iowa graduates.That being said, the actual storytelling is a mixed bag ranging from flawless to awkward. Many feel bloated, full of content that's unrelated to the general scope of the story. This is probably why the stories are all hard Let me first say that Carmen Maria Machado is a brilliant writer. All throughout this book I was in awe of her use of language. She's also a visionary. These stories are imaginative, original, and intriguing in ways that far exceed the typical literary output of Iowa graduates.That being said, the actual storytelling is a mixed bag ranging from flawless to awkward. Many feel bloated, full of content that's unrelated to the general scope of the story. This is probably why the stories are all hard to categorize. Too long to be a standard short story, but too underdeveloped to be a novella or even novelette. Her characters also seem to all be manifestations of an "author" persona, or narrator voice, rather than real people.Here's how I rated each story individually:The Husband Stitch - 5/5 - AMAZING. A must-read. Every word counts and every word hypnotizes. Inventory - 4/5 - A solid follow-up to the blockbuster opening story.Mothers - 3/5Especially Heinous - 3/5 - This is a fictionalized version of Law & Order episodes. Having not seen the show I felt on the outside of an inside joke. Probably more amusing for fans of the show.Real Women Have Bodies - 4/5 Eight Bites - 4/5The Resident - 2/5Difficult at Parties - 2/5
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  • Coleen (The Book Ramblings)
    January 1, 1970
    Her Body and Other Parties is a riveting 8-story collection that is a gritty, provocative debut. It’s a fusion of magical realism, horror, supernatural and fantasy that focuses on women’s lives and their bodies. In general, I am not fond of short story collections, but this is outstanding work. After each story, I had to take the time to process it, because they really make you think and view the world in a new perspective. It’s an original and electric collection of stories that I thoroughly en Her Body and Other Parties is a riveting 8-story collection that is a gritty, provocative debut. It’s a fusion of magical realism, horror, supernatural and fantasy that focuses on women’s lives and their bodies. In general, I am not fond of short story collections, but this is outstanding work. After each story, I had to take the time to process it, because they really make you think and view the world in a new perspective. It’s an original and electric collection of stories that I thoroughly enjoyed regardless of how disturbing some were because Machado’s storytelling is powerful, innovative, and like an otherworldly experience. You know when you discover an author’s work and realize it’s something you’ve been missing? Her Body and Other Parties is exactly that.The Husband Stitch — A retelling of the classic kid’s creepy story The Girl with the Ribbon Around Her Neck, where all women wear ribbons on some part of their body.Inventory — A list of sexual encounters told as a virus spreads across the world.Mothers — A disturbing, confusing tale about a woman who is given a baby by her lover who then leaves. It was difficult to depict what was real and what wasn’t in this. While strange and I didn’t quite comprehend it, I didn’t feel complied to because it was still intriguing.Especially Heinous — A reimagining with a dark supernatural-magical realism take on every episode of SUV. As a fan of Law & Order: SUV, I was interested in this novella, but it was the only story in the collection that I didn’t care to finish reading.Real Women Have Bodies — A haunting story about women who become invisible.Eight Bites — A narrator who has bariatric surgery and the sacrifice people make to be thin in today’s society, the impact it has on the mind and fellow females around usThe Resident — An author spends some time at an artist’s retreat, where things take a strange, disturbing turn.Difficult at Parties — A look into a woman’s life after severe trauma and the aftermath when she starts to hear voices of actors in erotic films.As expected with short story collections, there were some I enjoyed more than others, and some in this collection weren’t easily understood, but they were thought-provoking. Due to that, some descriptions for the stories were not easy to explain without giving away the plot.
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  • Krista Regester
    January 1, 1970
    The Husband Stitch 5 stars, A tale of tales, spinning old folk stories throughout one important one. How much can one possibly give to someone before it's too much? This was beautifully written. Inventory 5 stars, This was haunting and unique. An apocalyptic story told through each of the narrator's sexual experiences. Mothers 3 stars, I'm still a tad perplexed by this one. I wanted to find a clear plot but maybe that's where I went wrong. It was obvious that the narrator was experiencing a hear The Husband Stitch 5 stars, A tale of tales, spinning old folk stories throughout one important one. How much can one possibly give to someone before it's too much? This was beautifully written. Inventory 5 stars, This was haunting and unique. An apocalyptic story told through each of the narrator's sexual experiences. Mothers 3 stars, I'm still a tad perplexed by this one. I wanted to find a clear plot but maybe that's where I went wrong. It was obvious that the narrator was experiencing a heartbreak that had left her vulnerable and wounded - but I still had many questions when it ended. Especially Heinous 2 stars, This was not for me. I still have NO clue what happened here. This was other worldly in a confusing way. 272 little blurbs that really never formed a clear story! I found myself skipping through these hoping to dear god that I wouldn't hear Benson or Stabler's names one more time. This could have been a cool idea but it didn't carry over well, especially in audio book format. I couldn't tell if a new story had started or if the same one was still going!Real Women Have Bodies 4 stars, I don't know how Carmen Maria Machado comes up with these incredible ideas! This was raw, broken, and disturbing. The idea of just slowly fading away and not having control over your body, is terrifying.Eight Bites 3 stars, I think that deciding to modify your body in anyway is an extremely difficult and personal decision. So.. why was she so worried about everyone's opinion on the matter?! The ending was the best part and I almost wish that could have been more of the focus of the story. The Resident 3 stars, There was some really good imagery in this one, but it kind of fell flat for me. Difficult At Parties 5 stars, Don't we all want to know what everyone else is thinking? How about during sex? Ahh yes please.
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  • Trudie
    January 1, 1970
    Going into this I was not at all sure I would enjoy it. Novels generally appeal to me rather than a short story collection and anything labelled fabulist or absurdist has me wary. However, I am always pleased to find my preconceptions proved wrong. Within a few pages I knew I loved this. Machado's writing is electric, unapologetically weird and visceral while also feeling on point with the current #MeToo zeitegist.This is essentially a collection of contemporary fairy tales, the same sense of cr Going into this I was not at all sure I would enjoy it. Novels generally appeal to me rather than a short story collection and anything labelled fabulist or absurdist has me wary. However, I am always pleased to find my preconceptions proved wrong. Within a few pages I knew I loved this. Machado's writing is electric, unapologetically weird and visceral while also feeling on point with the current #MeToo zeitegist.This is essentially a collection of contemporary fairy tales, the same sense of creepy, inexplicable horror that I get from reading Grimm's stories also seeps out from these pages. Yet the sex in these tales, unlike Grimm, is frank, wild and at times explicit. These stories really grab you up, spin you around and spit you back out. I loved the experience, though I doubt it is a collection for everyone.Three stories in particular lodged in my brain. The first story, The Husband Stitch is arguably the best of the collection. It comes hurtling at you, deliciously subversive, unapologetically sexual and dark. It jolted me awake and I was ready for more. The Mothers and Especially Heinous both frustrated me at first, mostly as I had no idea what was going on. But Machado's use of language is so absorbing, things are tantalising eluded to but not made explicit. Like Sherlock Holmes I found myself combing back over the story searching for clues and joining my own threads of meaning together. I am really quite taken with this author and her short story collection. The writing, which I concede could be polarising for some, feels fresh, lively and bold. It is surreal and layered and yet still rooted in the requirement (at least for me) to tell a good story.If this is a debut offering I am first in line for whatever else Machado decides to write.
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  • Paul Fulcher
    January 1, 1970
    What’s worse - writing a trope or being one. What about being more than one.Her Body and Other Parties is a striking collection of short fiction - uneven but at its best quite brilliant (and at its worst - the tedious novella Especially Heinous - best skipped altogether unless you are a fan of the US TV series on which it is apparently based).A deliberate mash-up of genres - supernatural, horror, erotic, folklore, comedy, LGBTQ, feminist: Machado explains [1]I’m really interested in interrogatin What’s worse - writing a trope or being one. What about being more than one.Her Body and Other Parties is a striking collection of short fiction - uneven but at its best quite brilliant (and at its worst - the tedious novella Especially Heinous - best skipped altogether unless you are a fan of the US TV series on which it is apparently based).A deliberate mash-up of genres - supernatural, horror, erotic, folklore, comedy, LGBTQ, feminist: Machado explains [1]I’m really interested in interrogating tropes and engaging with genres and messing with them in a way I find satisfying. Perhaps the most obvious literary antecedents are Angela Carter and Shirley Jackson - although Machado only read the latter when her she found people comparing their work, albeit she would now acknowledge that reading her has influenced her later stories. Machado herself has said [2]: My influences are pretty wide-ranging. Some are obvious: Kelly Link, Karen Russell, Shirley Jackson, Angela Carter, Helen Oyeyemi. Some are set a little deeper in my past: Ray Bradbury, Lois Duncan, John Bellairs, Louis Sachar, Roald Dahl, Gabriel García Márquez.The overall effect was very similar, albeit a lot more explicitly sexual, to Camilla Grudova's Doll's Alphabet, (my review https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) which was a more consistent and perhaps slightly better book, but if you like one I would strongly recommend the other.The two stand out stories for me were The Husband Stitch and The Resident, both of which have meta-fictional elements that stand as commentary on Machado's wider project.The Resident sees the narrator, an author, attending an artist's retreat to work on her novel, in a remote area by a lake where, as a child, she had attended Brownie camp and had her first experience of kissing another girl. When she shares her novel-in-progress with her fellow artists, she gets a negative reaction from one of them, the overly-conventional Lydia:“Do you ever worry about writing the madwoman-in-the-attic story?”“I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean.”“You know. That old trope. Writing a story where the female protagonist is utterly batty. It’s sort of tiresome and regressive and, well, done”—here she gesticulated so forcefully that a few drops of red spattered the tablecloth—“don’t you think? And the mad lesbian, isn’t that a stereotype as well? Do you ever wonder about that?”the narrator goes on to respond:“She isn’t batty or mad, she’s just - she’s just a nervous character.”“I’ve never known anyone like that,” Lydia said. “She’s me,” I clarified, “More or less. She’s just in her head a lot.”And then, in a deliberate authorial swipe at the reception to (not the quality of) Knausgaard's work, one echoed by Rachel Cusk in Kudos: "Men are permitted to write concealed autobiography, but I cannot do the same? It’s ego if I do it?”In a later scene she reflects: What’s worse - writing a trope or being one. What about being more than one.And the spooky element of the story draws brilliantly on the frankly rather disturbing-in-its-own-right foundation story of The Brownies [3]Twist me and turn me and show me the elf, I looked in the water and there saw ….....Machado has said that her early inspiration included spooky tales told around the campfire, and her ability to take existing fairystories and urban myths and give them a twist of her own in showcased quite brilliantly in the opening story The Husband Stitch.Anything could move out there in the darkness, I think. A hook-handed man. A ghostly hitch-hiker repeating her journey. An old woman summoned from the rest of her mirror by the chants of children. Everyone knows these stories – that is, everyone tells them – but no one ever believes them.His eyes drift over the water, and then land on my neck.– Tell me about your ribbon, he says.– There is nothing to tell. It’s my ribbon.– May I touch it?– No.– I want to touch it, he says.– No.This one combines the oft-told story of the girl with a ribbon round her neck (e.g. the Green Ribbon version in In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories) with the urban-myth - or perhaps not a myth [4] - of the post-partum 'husband stitch'. But Machado works many-many more such horror-tales and urban myths into her story, quite explicitly, for example:When I select my wedding gown, I am reminded of the story of the young woman who wished to go to a dance with her lover, but could not afford a dress. She purchased a lovely white frock from a secondhand shop, and then later fell ill and passed from this earth. The coroner who performed her autopsy discovered she had died from exposure to embalming fluid. It turned out that an unscrupulous undertaker’s assistant had stolen the dress from the corpse of a bride.The moral of that story, I think, is that being poor will kill you. Or perhaps the moral is that brides never fare well in stories, and one should avoid either being a bride, or being in a story. After all, stories can sense happiness and snuff it out like a candle.And she includes some suggested effects for reading the story which starts relatively conventionally, albeit with implicit social commentary:(If you read this story out loud, please use the following voices:Me: as a child, high-pitched, forgettable; as a woman, the same.The boy who will grow into a man, and be my spouse: robust with his own good fortune.)and become increasingly bizarre:(If you are reading this story out loud, force a listener to reveal a secret, then open the nearest window to the street and scream it as loudly as you are able.)Unfortunately the collection is a little marred by the longest piece Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law & Order: SUV which I would suggest skipping entirely.It consists of 272 entries of precis for a trashy TV homicide series, for example the first:“Payback”: Stabler and Benson investigate the murder and castration of a New York City cab driver. They discover that the victim assumed the identity of another man years before because he was wanted by police. In the end, Stabler discovers that the stolen identity of the man in question was also stolen, and he and Benson have to begin the investigation all over again. That night, as he unsuccessfully tries to sleep, Stabler begins to hear a strange noise. A deep drumming, two beats. It seems like it’s coming from his basement. When he investigates the basement, it sounds like it’s coming from outside.From other reviews I learned that Law and Order: SVU is an actual US TV series (who watches this stuff?) and it seems episodes in name and, loosely in terms of certain characters and plot developments, follow those of the series. In practice, it seems hard to satirise something that is already beyond satire - for example the actual precis for Payback:In the episode, the detectives of the Special Victims Unit investigate a taxi-cab driver's brutal murder and castration. Detective Olivia Benson becomes personally involved in the case after discovering that the taxi driver was a rapist and murderer himself.Which presumably makes this great fun fans of the TV programme but certainly makes it rather a waste of time for people who have never heard of it. The 272 views are at least 262 too many.But overall, recommended if uneven - 3.5 stars.Sources:[1] https://www.theguardian.com/books/201...[2] https://mastersreview.com/interview-c...[3] https://www.girlguiding.org.uk/what-w...[4] https://www.healthline.com/health-new...)[5] https://carmenmariamachado.com/fiction/ (for many of the stories in their original forms, as well as others]
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  • Alex
    January 1, 1970
    I kicked off 2018 by reading some of the best of 2017. Here's my list; here's Digg's aggregate top ten list."All the Hooters waitresses get pregnant at once. No one will say why. 'This is not really a case,' Benson says, exasperated."I'm sorry, that gif is just going to be there blinking until you scroll past it or something, but it was also blinking in my head during the centerpiece of this short story collection, which is called "Especially Heinous" and told entirely through capsule descriptio I kicked off 2018 by reading some of the best of 2017. Here's my list; here's Digg's aggregate top ten list."All the Hooters waitresses get pregnant at once. No one will say why. 'This is not really a case,' Benson says, exasperated."I'm sorry, that gif is just going to be there blinking until you scroll past it or something, but it was also blinking in my head during the centerpiece of this short story collection, which is called "Especially Heinous" and told entirely through capsule descriptions of episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. My ex used to watch this show for hours upon hours, and I was always a little creeped out by the whole thing. It seems lurid, doesn't it? "Now with especial heinousness!" Carmen Maria Machado agrees with me but also with my ex. The story follows Stabler and Benson, who are these two(I had to look it up and I'm sure this whole thing would have been even better for me if hundreds of in-jokes weren't flying over my head) as they try to deny their lust for each other. Benson is haunted by dead, raped underage models with bells for eyes. A pair of doppelgangers appear, Abler and Henson. Copycats? I don't know. The thing with women is that they're always getting raped, is sortof the feeling you get from the show, which, actually, is not entirely as untrue as you would like it to be, and it is - what's the phrase I'm looking for - especially heinous.It works an awful lot better than you'd think it would, which I mean you'd think it wouldn't work at all - it's just 272 fake episodes of Law & Order: SVU! How can that not be an annoying disaster? It isn't, but my favorite is the other novella here, "The Resident," a Gothic set at an artists' retreat in the woods that manages to mash up references to madwomen in attics, grotesque body horror (oozing cysts!) and maybe a Fatal Attraction riff? I don't know but that bunny is dead. If Machado is planning on expanding something into a novel, as one does, it ought to be this one and she's onto something.She's onto something generally. There's a lot of mashing up going on in art these days, so to find Machado throwing Angela Carter in a bucket with internet porn makes sense. "It is my right to reside in my own mind," says the narrator of The Resident. Machado's mind is dangerous and brilliant."Benson accidentally catches a rapist when she Google-stalks her newest OKCupid date. She can't decide whether to mark this in the 'success' ('caught rapist') or 'failure' ('date didn't work out') column. She marks it in both."
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  • Meike
    January 1, 1970
    Winner of the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Award for Best First Book 2017 It's true that Machado managed to write unusual, poetic and multi-dimensional short stories about the female body - she twists and turns a classic format, throwing in a little horror, sci-fi, some urban legends, and lots of pyschology and sex. She is an expert when it comes to creating atmosphere, and she can also be quite funny (it seems to be a minority opinion, but I thought her haunted re-telling of "Law & Winner of the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Award for Best First Book 2017 It's true that Machado managed to write unusual, poetic and multi-dimensional short stories about the female body - she twists and turns a classic format, throwing in a little horror, sci-fi, some urban legends, and lots of pyschology and sex. She is an expert when it comes to creating atmosphere, and she can also be quite funny (it seems to be a minority opinion, but I thought her haunted re-telling of "Law & Order: SVU" was hilarious, effectively mocking the inherent clichés of the original format). What bothered me a little about this collection could well be a matter of personal taste: There are parts of some stories and even a whole story ("Mothers") that are so open to interpretation that the result is a breakdown of communication between Machado and me. Or to put it differently: I am assuming that an author tries to communicate something to his or her readers, and even though I have no problem with this message being ambiguous (in fact, I want my books to be challenging), I don't enjoy texts that are so open to interpretation that one might find 20 potential meanings - I tend to get bored with symbols and allusions that are so rich that they are borderline random. Nevertheless, I am really happy that I read this, because Machado's voice is different, unique, and deserves to be heard - so thanks to Will for encouraging me to pick up this book, and thanks to Tim and Julia for lending me their copy! :-)
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  • Paula Bardell-Hedley
    January 1, 1970
    Carmen Maria Machado's debut short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, has marked her out as an effervescent talent in fermentation.Her gorgeously lubricious, fantastically deranged, genre-twisting stories explore women's bodies and the physical violence all too frequently visited upon them. Her narratives are strewn with surreal situations masquerading as humdrum lives, and many of her characters are propelled into states of half lunacy by their circumstances.Machado's feminal leitmot Carmen Maria Machado's debut short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, has marked her out as an effervescent talent in fermentation.Her gorgeously lubricious, fantastically deranged, genre-twisting stories explore women's bodies and the physical violence all too frequently visited upon them. Her narratives are strewn with surreal situations masquerading as humdrum lives, and many of her characters are propelled into states of half lunacy by their circumstances.Machado's feminal leitmotifs progress from tales of bariatric surgery and outbreaks of a fading disease to a woman's terrifying struggle to keep her sanity in the wake of a brutal attack. Nothing in these clever little fables is ever quite as it seems – and there is invariably a sinister something lurking just beyond our range of vision. Her language is pleasingly inventive throughout. In The Resident, her protagonist describes a woman's dress as a “shapeless frock whose fractal pattern spiralled dozens of holes into her torso and created in me immediate anxiety.”Machado's style won't appeal to everyone – especially those who insist upon neat endings to their short fiction. Nevertheless, I feel sure there will be plenty of readers delighted by such virtuoso storytelling. I look forward to the publication of House in Indiana, Machado's forthcoming memoir, due for release in 2019. (3.5 stars)Many thanks to Graywolf Press for supplying an advance review copy of this title.
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  • Selene Matheson
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 StarsThis book contains several feminist short stories. While I see the point to these stories the language is quite foul and I’m not enjoying that part of these stories. The Husbands Stitch - 4 Stars This is a short story about how men feel they have a right to women’s bodies. Inventory - 3 Stars This short story is about a woman’s sexual encounters during her life that is based on a post apocalyptic setting. Mothers - 2.5 StarsThis was an abstract story about a woman and how she came to ra 3.5 StarsThis book contains several feminist short stories. While I see the point to these stories the language is quite foul and I’m not enjoying that part of these stories. The Husbands Stitch - 4 Stars This is a short story about how men feel they have a right to women’s bodies. Inventory - 3 Stars This short story is about a woman’s sexual encounters during her life that is based on a post apocalyptic setting. Mothers - 2.5 StarsThis was an abstract story about a woman and how she came to raise a child that wasn’t “hers”. Especially Heinous - 4 Stars This is a short collection of 272 episodes of Law and Order: SVU with supernatural elements. My mom always watches this show when I was growing up. I’ve seen a lot of the episodes and that’s why I think I liked this short story so much. Real Women Have Bodies - 3.5 Stars This short story is based on a world where women fade. Eight Bites - 4 Stars This short story is about a woman’s relationship with her body and food. The Resident - 2.5 StarsThis short story is about an artist who is residing in the mountains. Difficult at Parties - 4 Stars
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  • Julie Zantopoulos
    January 1, 1970
    The Husband Stitch: 5 Stars this was my favorite of the book so far and a really impactful and hard-hitting start to this series of short stories. Inventory: 4 Stars- an interesting look at sex and sexuality in a dystopian type world. Mothers: 2 stars-too weird and convoluted for me to follow, honestly. Especially Heinous: 2 Stars- I don't watch Law & Order and this was some strange Benson and Stabler re-write that just didn't connect with me. Real Women Have Bodies: 5 Stars- holy crap! The The Husband Stitch: 5 Stars this was my favorite of the book so far and a really impactful and hard-hitting start to this series of short stories. Inventory: 4 Stars- an interesting look at sex and sexuality in a dystopian type world. Mothers: 2 stars-too weird and convoluted for me to follow, honestly. Especially Heinous: 2 Stars- I don't watch Law & Order and this was some strange Benson and Stabler re-write that just didn't connect with me. Real Women Have Bodies: 5 Stars- holy crap! The idea that women fight to be seen, to have identities outside of their physical appearance and sometimes feel unseen, invisible, was so powerful. Eight Bites: 5 Stars- Oh man, this was heartbreaking and horrible to read. The idea of surgery and body image issues passed down through generations and peers. The hate you hold for your body and what you'll do to maintain the kind of body you think you should have. The heartbreak of a daughter wondering if her body is wrong because her mother didn't like her own is so raw, so real. The Resident: 2 stars- meh, this one didn't connect with me and was pretty forgettable. Difficult At Parties & Closing: 4 Stars, this was a really poignant story that really packed an emotional punch. This collection started and ended really strong and left me with a lot to think about. I do think that I'd have appreciated it even more had I read the physical version and not listened to it...however, I want to point out that the audiobook was FANTASTICALLY done. I really enjoyed this collection as a whole.
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  • Ace
    January 1, 1970
    Reading these stories confirmed for me that I don't like horror stories and I like them even less when they are short stories. I was the kid around the campfire fire pleading with everyone to stop telling scary stories and couldn't we all just sing kum ba ya?I like back stories, a little explanation and solid endings and some of the things that make books click for me I couldn't find in this collection. Also, I must admit that there is some beautiful prose here and I was drawn to this writing an Reading these stories confirmed for me that I don't like horror stories and I like them even less when they are short stories. I was the kid around the campfire fire pleading with everyone to stop telling scary stories and couldn't we all just sing kum ba ya?I like back stories, a little explanation and solid endings and some of the things that make books click for me I couldn't find in this collection. Also, I must admit that there is some beautiful prose here and I was drawn to this writing and she can certainly create atmosphere which you can almost reach out and touch.
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  • Jaclyn Crupi
    January 1, 1970
    These stories are 🔥🔥🔥. Jesmyn Ward might be in trouble after all... Machado plays with genre until all that remains are singular stories about women's lives and the violence visited upon their bodies. These stories are game changers. You need to read this - I can't quite believe what I just read. Also, that title!
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  • Ana
    January 1, 1970
    Reading Women Challenge 2018#4. A short story collectionWhat is better than a dark, genre-bending, unapologetically queer, and wildly imaginative short story collection about the intricacies of the feminine experience?“Anything could move out there in the darkness, I think. A hook-handed man. A ghostly hitchhiker forever repeating the same journey. An old woman summoned from the repose of her mirror by the chants of children. Everyone knows these stories — that is, everyone tells them, even if t Reading Women Challenge 2018#4. A short story collectionWhat is better than a dark, genre-bending, unapologetically queer, and wildly imaginative short story collection about the intricacies of the feminine experience?“Anything could move out there in the darkness, I think. A hook-handed man. A ghostly hitchhiker forever repeating the same journey. An old woman summoned from the repose of her mirror by the chants of children. Everyone knows these stories — that is, everyone tells them, even if they don’t know them — but no one ever believes them.”(from “The Husband Stitch”)“‘REDEMPTION’: Benson accidentally catches a rapist when she Google-stalks her newest OkCupid date. She can’t decide whether or not to mark this in the ‘success’ (‘caught rapist’) or ‘failure’ (‘date didn’t work out’) column. She marks it in both.”(from “Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law & Order: SVU”)“What is worse: being locked outside of your own mind, or being locked inside of it?What is worse: writing a trope or being one? What about being more than one?”(from “The Resident”)I have my favourites, of course, the haunting madness of “The Resident,” the emotional undertones of “The Husband Stitch,” and even the humour and the (meta)narrative gamble on feminist themes in “Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law & Order: SVU.” This is one short story collection that will stay with me for a really long time!
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  • Eric Anderson
    January 1, 1970
    Part of what excites me about reading a debut author’s book is the originality of voice I might discover. The short fiction in “Her Body and Other Parties” by Carmen Maria Machado is so wild and inventive with an impressive variation in structure and subject matter shown from story to story. Often they branch into supernatural or surreal territories where women fade away into the stitching of designer dresses or the spirits of dead prostitutes with bells for eyes haunt a female detective. One st Part of what excites me about reading a debut author’s book is the originality of voice I might discover. The short fiction in “Her Body and Other Parties” by Carmen Maria Machado is so wild and inventive with an impressive variation in structure and subject matter shown from story to story. Often they branch into supernatural or surreal territories where women fade away into the stitching of designer dresses or the spirits of dead prostitutes with bells for eyes haunt a female detective. One story takes place in a post-apocalyptic landscape where the narrator numbers the amount of lovers she’s had, another occurs at a housewarming party that goes awry and one is centred around a clothing shop which seeks to “terrify our patrons into an existential crisis.” But, while this fiction often spills into a wonderful absurdity, I frequently felt an emotional resonance which made it seem very real. Throughout the narrators or characters are disarmingly assertive which gives these tales a confidential and urgent tone: “you may have heard some version of this story before but this is the one you need to know.”Read my full review of Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado on LonesomeReader
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