It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Halloween is coming! We kicked off the season with our current BOM, New Orleans supernatural thriller Death Came to Dinner. Now let’s keep the ball rolling with Carmen Maria Machado’s horrific and frankly gross short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties.
Not offensive to women = 1/1 pt / Features a woman as the main protagonist and/or supporting character = 2/2 pts / Passes the Bechdel-Wallace test = 3/3 pts
Each story pretty much passes for representation of all kinds. Character descriptions tend to be sparse, and many stories are first person narration, with descriptions more literary than literal. But these are still stories of women making their way in the world, through the patriarchy and the apocalypse, bad relationships and long-held fears.
Recommended: Classic Movie Review: The Shining
Artistic and/or Entertaining = 2/4 pts
Actually…I didn’t like this book much, but I’m reviewing it because I can see how it would appeal to another reader. I felt Machado danced around the point, but never quite stabbed me with it. (There’s nothing I love being stabbed with more than theme!) One example is the first in the collection, The Husband Stitch. It is a retelling of The Green Ribbon. I love that story, but Machado’s version seemed only to embellish. By the conclusion, very little new depth had been added. Or rather, I don’t know what Machado wanted to accomplish with her retelling, besides be atmospheric. Like a fairy tale, The Green Ribbon is short and ambiguous, leaving lots of potential for Machado to pick a lane and blow our minds with her interpretation.
Many stories used sex as a central element, which to me felt more like forced edginess than a statement of character or of human condition. Characters ran together for me, perhaps because of the many depictions of sex. My favorites were The Resident, for a great ending, and Especially Heinous for being especially weird.
All that being said, fans of atmospheric horror may find a lot to love here. Reviewers loved this collection, apparently. A lot of praise compared the collection to Angela Carter, whom I love. And Karen Russell, who I don’t. And Helen Oyeyemi, who I do. So I guess don’t listen to me, and try this book out for yourself.
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Above and Beyond General Media = 5/5 pts
So why am I reviewing a book I’m clearly “meh” about? The representation of women, specifically queer women, was sweet. I love weird, uncompromising women and this book was full of them. In horror, women are often put-upon. Victims, sex-objects, idiots…Machado turns all of that around.
It’s kind of nice to dislike something because it wasn’t for me, and not because it was offensive.
Click here to buy Her Body and Other Parties, then tell us what you thought in the comments!
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