cover image Her Body and Other Parties

Her Body and Other Parties

Carmen Maria Machado. Graywolf (FSG, dist.), $16 trade paper (264p) ISBN 978-1-55597-788-7

Machado creates eerie, inventive worlds 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. Machado builds entire interior lives through sparse and minor details, turning even litanies of refrigerator contents and free-association on the coming of autumn into memorable meditations on identity and female disempowerment. 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. In “Especially Heinous,” Machado rewrites 12 seasons of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, riffing on the titles as she imagines Benson haunted by victims, Stabler beset by domestic drama, and both competing with more efficient doppelgangers. Machado’s slightly slanted world echoes our own in ways that will entertain, challenge, and move readers. (Oct.)