Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Her Body and Other Parties

A highly anticipated debut by one of the most ferociously gifted young writers working today (Michelle Huneven)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...

Title:Her Body and Other Parties
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Her Body and Other Parties Reviews

  • Roxane

    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.

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)

    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

    .

    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.

  • Hannah

    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.

  • Blair

    In her debut collection of short stories, Carmen Maria Machado mingles fabulism, body horror, erotica and feminist commentary. The thrust of

    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

    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

    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

    didn't work for me the way I hoped it would.

    If you enjoyed this I'd recommend the following (all short story collections):

    by Mariana Enríquez

    by Camilla Grudova

    by Alexandra Kleeman

    by Ottessa Moshfegh

    by Jen George

    Her Body and Other Parties

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  • Coleen (The Book Ramblings)

    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 us

    The 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.

  • Simon

    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.

  • Larry H

    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,

    , 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,

    , 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

    , 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?

    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

    .

  • Riley

    Actual rating: 3.5

    Individual ratings:

    The Husband Stitch - 5 (by far my favorite in the collection)

    Inventory - 4.5

    Mothers - 3

    Especially Heinous - 2

    Real Women Have Bodies - 3.5

    Eight Bites - 4

    The Resident - 3

    Difficult at Parties - 4

  • Emily May

    This is a difficult review to write because I have a lot of mixed feelings.

    is like most short story collections I have read in that some of the stories worked for me far more than others. It is

    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.

    is like most short story collections I have read in that some of the stories worked for me far more than others. It is

    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,

    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:

    "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

    in snippets that gave me flashbacks to

    . 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:

    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

    was pretty mixed overall. I would recommend Gay's

    , 404 Ink's

    or Enriquez's

    before this book. Though some stories are definitely worth checking out.

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  • Mackenzi

    *long keening noise only uttered in the shadow of a perfect book*

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