Author(s): Carmen Maria Machado
Finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction
"[These stories] vibrate with originality, queerness, sensuality and the strange."--Roxane Gay
"In these formally brilliant and emotionally charged tales, Machado gives literal shape to women's memories and hunger and desire. I couldn't put it down."--Karen Russell
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 has a voice that is all her own. In this electric and provocative debut, Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women's lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.
A wife refuses her husband's entreaties to remove the green ribbon from around her neck. A woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague slowly consumes humanity. A salesclerk in a mall makes a horrifying discovery within the seams of the store's prom dresses. One woman's surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted houseguest. And in the bravura novella "Especially Heinous," Machado reimagines every episode ofLaw & Order: Special Victims Unit, a show we naïvely assumed had shown it all, generating a phantasmagoric police procedural full of doppelgängers, ghosts, and girls with bells for eyes.
Earthy and otherworldly, antic and sexy, queer and caustic, comic and deadly serious,Her Body and Other Partiesswings from horrific violence to the most exquisite sentiment. In their explosive originality, these stories enlarge the possibilities of contemporary fiction.
Wonderful and terrible humans skulk in the myths of Carmen Maria Machado's genre-bending debut - perfect for fans of Angela Carter's Fairy Tales
Long-listed for National Book Awards 2017 (UK).
Brilliantly inventive and blazingly smart, these stories have the life-and-death stakes of nightmares and fairy tales; they're full of urgent, almost unbearable reality. Carmen Machado is an extraordinary writer, an essential voice -- Garth Greenwell The stories in 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 -- Roxane Gay Part punk rock and part classical, with stories that are raw and devastating but also exquisitely plotted and full of delight. This is a strong, dangerous, and blisteringly honest book-it's hard to think of it as a 'debut,' it's that good -- Jeff Vandermeer Carmen Maria Machado's Her Body and Other Parties tells ancient fables of eros and female metamorphosis in fantastically new ways. She draws the secret world of the body into visibility, and illuminates the dark woods of the psyche. In these formally brilliant and emotionally charged tales, Machado gives literal shape to women's memories and hunger and desire. I couldn't put it down -- Karen Russell Her Body and Other Parties will delight you, hurt you, and astonish you as only the smartest literature can. In this collection Machado blends horror, fairy tale, pop culture and myth in mesmerizing ways that feel utterly new. These stories are peerless and brilliant -- Alissa Nutting An astonishing and supple debut. Carmen Maria Machado shuffles together fantastic, realistic, popular, and literary genres and then deals winning hand after winning hand. Whether it is reworking fairy tales, rewriting the entire run of Law and Order into a grim fantasy, or diving into unchartered territory entirely Machado's own, Her Body and Other Parties is a deft and thoughtful reclaiming of both literature and genre -- Brian Evenson Carmen Maria Machado has a vital, visceral, umbilical connection to the places deep within the soul from where stories emanate. With a tenderness that is both touching and terrifying, Her Body and Other Parties gives insight into a cluster of worlds linked by their depth of feeling and penetrating strangeness -- Alexandra Kleeman Those of us who knew have been waiting for a Carmen Maria Machado collection for years. Her stories show us what we really love and fear -- Alexander Chee What Carmen Maria Machado has done with this collection is nothing less than stunning. Just when you think you've figured her out, she unveils another layer of story, so unexpected, so profound, it leaves you gasping -- Lesley Arimah Carmen Maria Machado is the way forward. Her fiction is fearlessly inventive, socially astute, sometimes pointed, sometimes elliptical, and never quite what you're expecting-yet behind it you can always hear that ancient tale-teller's voice, bartering for your attention with its dangers and its mysteries, its foolhardy characters pulled this way and that by the ropes of their emotions. Which is to say simply this: that there is at once the breath of the new about these stories and the breath of the timeless -- Kevin Brockmeier With her lush, generative imagination, shimmering language, and utter fearlessness, Carmen Maria Machado is surely one of most ferociously gifted young writers working today....Hilariously inventive, emotionally explosive, wonderfully sexy, Machado's stories will carry you far from home, upend your reality, and sew themselves to your soul -- Michelle Huneven Carmen Maria Machado is amazing. A form-bending fabulist in the tradition of Kevin Brockmeier, Kelly Link, and Karen Russell, she gleefully seeks out weird shapes and subjects for every story....She writes uncanny, creepy, sexy, funny, feminist, magical-realist, metafictional, pop-cultural, and all-of-the-above stories, and she seems determined never to write the same story twice. Yet for all of its wildly inventive variety, Her Body and Other Parties is unified by the one story it keeps finding new ways to tell: how women can survive in worlds that want them to disappear, whether into marriage, motherhood, death, or (literally) prom dresses -- Bennett Sims Carmen Maria Machado writes a new kind of fiction: brilliant, blindingly weird, and precisely attuned to the perils and sorrows of the times -- Ben Marcus Machado's debut collection brings together eight stories that showcase her fluency in the bizarre, magical, and sharply frightening depths of the imagination. Each of the stories in this collection has, at its center, a strange and surprising idea that communicates, in a shockingly visceral way, the experience of living inside a woman's body. In "The Husband Stitch," Machado turns the well-known horror story about a girl who wears a green ribbon around her neck inside out, transforming the worn childhood nightmare into a blistering exploration of female desire and the insidious entitlement that society claims over the female body. "Especially Heinous" turns 12 seasons of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit into a disorienting, lonely, and oddly hopeful crime procedural crammed with ghosts and doppelgangers. "Difficult at Parties" depicts a woman trying to recover from a sexual assault. She watches porn in the hope that it will help her reconnect with her boyfriend and discovers that she can somehow hear the thoughts of the actors on the screen. Women fade out of their physical bodies and get incorporated into prom dresses. They get gastric bypass surgery, suffer epidemics, have children, go to artist residencies. They have a lot of sex. The fierceness and abundance of sex and desire in these stories, the way emotion is inextricably connected with the concerns of the body, makes even the most outlandish imaginings strangely familiar. Machado writes with furious grace. She plays with form and expectation in ways that are both funny and elegant but never obscure. "If you are reading this story out loud," one story suggests, "give a paring knife to the listeners and ask them to cut the tender flap of skin between your index finger and thumb." With Machado's skill, this feels not like a quirk or a flourish but like a perfectly appropriate direction. An exceptional and pungently inventive first book. * Kirkus Reviews (Starred) * I will shamelessly admit that I wept after finishing the story "Mothers" in Carmen Maria Machado's forthcoming collection, Her Body and Other Parties. "Mothers" is in Machado's masterful surrealist style, and by dispensing with traditional narrative structure, she is able to evoke the melancholy of time's passage, the nostalgia of motherhood, and the pain of a failed and violent marriage. The story's twenty pages deliver a wallop to the heart that I didn't see coming. The entire collection is forceful, although it never takes itself too seriously: "Especially Heinous" reimagines synopses of Law & Order: SVU episodes; "The Husband Stitch" riffs on scary fireside stories and suburban legends. But she 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. For instance, her characters enjoy sex, neither shamefully nor aggressively, but simply because they do-no explanation needed. Machado's work, like her characters, is accessible and nuanced, textured without being overwrought -- Lauren Kane * Paris Review * Machado creates eerie, inventive world shimmering with supernatural swerves in this engrossing debut collection. Her stories make strikingly feminist moves by combining elements of horror and speculative fiction with women's everyday crises... Queerness permeates these tales, shaping the women and their problems, with a recurring focus on the inherent strangeness of female bodies. These bodies face an epidemic of inexplicable evaporation ("Real Women Have Bodies"), linger as distorted masses beyond weight-loss surgery ("Eight Bites", or gain the ability to hear the thoughts of actors in porn ("Difficult at Parties). "The Husband Stitch" makes explicit the hidden sexuality of creepy urban legends... Machado's slightly slanted world echoes our own in ways that will entertain, challenge, and move readers * Publisher's Weekly, Starred Review *
Carmen Maria Machado is a fiction writer, critic, and essayist whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Guernica, Electric Literature, The Paris Review, AGNI, NPR, Gulf Coast, Los Angeles Review of Books, VICE, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and has been awarded fellowships and residencies from the Michener-Copernicus Foundation, the Elizabeth George Foundation, the CINTAS Foundation, the Speculative Literature Foundation, the University of Iowa and the Millay Colony for the Arts. She is the Artist in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, and lives in Philadelphia with her partner.