2017 releases · fiction

The Original, the Brilliant and the Strange: Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

So I can like a short story collection. 

Her Body and Other PartiesI’ve been meaning to pick this book up ever since it came out. But I don’t get on really well with short story collections. I always find that I can never like a collection as a whole, only certain stories. And then I can never say that I actually love a collection, because objectively, I only liked some of the stories. Plus, I have seen some reviews for this, where people said that this just went over their heads and I knew that I needed to be in a really specific mood to actually enjoy this. However, after seeing it everywhere I decided to, carefully, try this one out and just dip into it, story by story and see how I get on with it. But as it turns out, there is a short story collection for everyone (go figure), and this was the one for me.

as a wholeIn Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado writes about female bodies. She writes in contradictions, some times looking at bodies with autonomy, with being one with your body and your self, but at others she mostly focuses on how female bodies are always there for others, how they are invaded and “shared” as if anyone has a right to them. This is a fabulist story collection, meaning it’s weird, but in a really clever and good way. You have stories where  women literally disappear in their skin, or stories where Machado gives us a twist on all 9 seasons of Law & Order (she really lost me there). But in every story, she writes beautifully and very intelligently. The story’s are allegorical and metaphorical and there’s so much craft here. Machado is very skilled at transfering unease, or sensuality or plain old fear. It’s a real feat.

I found that I enjoyed most of these stories, and even with ones that did not really work for me, I found that I can enjoy the reading experience. There’s so much to chew on in this one, and I think that this book is brilliant in giving food for thought and if you are a female reading this, I think you will discover that a lot of sentiments in this are quite true.

In conclusion, I loved this, and I am just gonna tell you a little bit about my three favorite stories, just so you can get the idea of why I liked the collection a lot.

stitchThis is the first story in the collection, and it’s in my opinion the strongest one. This is a story about a woman who has a bow wrapped around her neck and it’s the only thing that she doesn’t allow her husband to touch or to know about her. Machado uses this premise to talk about how entitled people feel to female bodies and how no matter how much a woman gives back, the society doesn’t allow her to have just one little thing to herself. It also explores that aspect of entitlement, how terrifying it can be, or how terrifying its consequences can be. I adored this story, and it really set the tone for the whole collection.

difficult atThis is the last story in the collection, and just as it starts, the collection ends on a high note. We follow a woman who was probably raped (it was never stated) and the aftermath of it. The way she feels about herself and her body and how she doesn’t recognize herself anymore mirrors in the fact that she can hear what the actors are thinking in the adult films that she watches. The story has a sense of unease to it, that holds your attention and I think that she manages to use a weird concept to tell an all too familiar one. I loved it.

eightbitesThis story is so unassuming, but ends up being brilliant. It’s about a woman who undergoes a gastric bypass surgery, and her old body starts haunting her. It literally materializes itself and lives in her basement. There’s a really poignant scene at the end where the heroine hugs her ghoul-like previous self and it’s such a visceral image. The way we treat our bodies and the way we see them and judge and dismiss them perfectly translates into this story and I loved it.

verdictI really loved the collection and I highly recommend you check it out. It’s a weird, grotesque but also beautiful and stunning piece and I really think there’s a lot in there to chew on and appreciate.

Final verdict: 4 stars

anthingtoadd2Have you read this one or do you maybe plan to? I would love to hear your thoughts! Do you have a favorite story? Let me know in the comments!


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11 thoughts on “The Original, the Brilliant and the Strange: Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

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