Her Body and Other Parties is a collection of eight fables that weave between science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Carmen Maria Machado reroutes classic fairytale narratives to portray a series of women nearing sanity’s edge which in turn sheds light on the realities of fear in relationships and in ourselves. Such stories include a woman who realises there are ghosts sewn into the seams of her dress, a woman who has a gastric bypass and is haunted by the body parts she has lost, and a woman who struggles to keep her husband from removing a ribbon from around her neck. Each character has a very abrupt obstacle to overcome that resonates with the reader.
Parul Seghal of the New York Times points out that “In the old myths, women were fenced in by forests, towers, spells. In Machado’s work, cautionary tales are all that’s required. Fear keeps women in line. Their own minds act in the place of the moats.”
These storylines are designed to teach us about our terror instead of casually overstepping it. No simple resolution is offered to her characters and the monsters within all of us are brought to light through them.
Lauren Kane of The Paris Review has said that Machado:
writes with a sincerity I didn’t realize I was missing until I found it in these pages; it’s rare to encounter an articulation of feminist themes that isn’t self-conscious of them…Machado’s work, like her characters, is accessible and nuanced, textured without being overwrought.
I’m excited to read a work heavily influenced by the reworked fairytales of British writer Angela Carter, in which Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf are in fact a couple and Beauty becomes a beast instead. As the Los Angeles Times has said of her talents, “Machado reveals just how original, subversive, proud and joyful it can be to write from deep in the gut, even – especially – if the gut has been bruised.”
Machado is a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award and we have every faith in her to win it! You can pick up Her Body and Other Parties here!