Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado was published on this day, October 3rd, three years ago. It was short listed for the National Book Prize in 2017 and for the National Dylan Thomas Prize in 2018.
In this collection of short stories a wife refuses her husband’s entreaties to remove the mysterious green ribbon from around her neck, a woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague spreads across the earth, a salesclerk in a mall makes a horrifying discovery about a store’s dresses, one woman’s surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted house guest, and in one specially clever short story, Machado reimagines every episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit generating a phantasmagoric police procedural full of doppelgangers, ghosts, and girls with bells for eyes.
image via amazon
Here are some of the best quotes from this otherworldly work of fiction:
“Many people live and die without ever confronting themselves in the darkness.”
What if you colonize your own mind and when you get inside, the furniture is attached to the ceiling? What if you step inside and when you touch the furniture, you realize it’s all just cardboard cutouts and it all collapses beneath the pressure of your finger? What if you get inside and there’s no furniture? What if you get inside and it’s just you in there, sitting in a chair, rolling figs and eggs around in the basked of your lap and humming a little tune? What if you get inside and there’s nothing there, and then the door hatch closes and locks?
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 that one?
“Stories can sense happiness and snuff it out like a candle.”
No one knows what causes it. It’s not passed in the air. It’s not sexually transmitted. It’s not a virus or a bacteria, or if it is, it’s nothing scientists have been able to find. At first everyone blamed the fashion industry, then the millennials, and, finally, the water. But the water’s been tested, the millennials aren’t the only ones going incorporeal, and it doesn’t do the fashion industry any good to have women fading away. You can’t put clothes on air. Not that they haven’t tried.
“They are talking about how we can’t trust the faded women, women who can’t be touched but can stand on the earth, which means they must be lying about something, they must be deceiving us somehow.”
‘It is my right to reside in my own mind. It is my right,’ I said. ‘It is my right to be unsociable and it is my right to be unpleasant to be around. Do you ever listen to yourself? This is crazy, that is crazy, everything is crazy to you. By whose measure? Well, it is my right to be crazy, as you love to say so much. I have no shame. I have felt many things in my life, but shame is not among them.
“I believe in a world where impossible things happen. Where love can outstrip brutality, can neutralize it, as though it never was, or transform it into something new and more beautiful. Where love can outdo nature.”
I will look where her eyes would be. I will open my mouth to ask but then realize the question has answered itself: by loving me when I did not love her, by being abandoned by me, she has become immortal. She will outlive me by a hundred million years; more, even. She will outlive my daughter, and my daughter’s daughter, and the earth will teem with her and her kind, their inscrutable forms and unknowable destinies.
“As a grown woman, I would have said to my father that there are true things in this world observed only by a single set of eyes.”