Currently Reading: Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
I saw articles and an interview with the author for this new short story collection and knew I had to read it. I would say this collection is a great fiction companion to Hunger by Roxane Gay for varied portrayals of women's bodies.
The first story, Mothers, is the classic horror favorite about a girl with a ribbon around her neck. Why is it there? What does it do if anything? You probably already know the answers to these questions but you will want to read until the end anyway to find the inevitable answer. I've only heard a version of this where the girl never grows up. It's interesting to see how a story can change and become more relevant when it is continued past it's usual ending.
Reading through the story, Especially Heinous, inspired by titles from Law and Order SVU episodes I wasn't sure what to expect. I enjoyed the story that developed which would never happen on the TV show but still seemed authentic to the characters. If you liked this show even slightly you will like this story. Even if you don't know anything about Law and Order you will like this story if you enjoy the other stories in this collection.
In an interview with The Paris Review the author said her inspiration for this story was being sick in bed, hallucinating and being unable to turn off the TV so Netflix continuously cycled through Law and Order SVU episodes. It's also a great spin on the haunting these fictional professionals must feel from dealing with such visceral and violent cases. Benson is haunted literally and figuratively to the point where she can't really function. These dead girls consume her every waking moment.
Eight Bites is about how rapid weight loss associated with weight loss surgery can haunt you, not just metaphorically. I understand the desire for control which is often judged harshly if you are seen as a glutton with no self control. I never had an eating disorder but still get woozy when I have to relinquish control over something even if it might seem trivial. This is one of my main motivations for writing about what I love, care about and interests me on the internet.
Real Women Have Bodies is also about control. What do you do when your body goes rogue? How do you cope with disappearing? Sometimes it is all we want to do. Withdraw from the world and only emerge when it is a gentler and kinder place. Change never happens this rapidly so we stay inside for a weekend fortified for the inevitable Monday. Retail is also not portrayed as fun which I can appreciate as a former mall employee.
In The Resident, the line they make you say before you become a Brownie in Girl Scouts has never sounded so menacing and creepy.
"Twist me, and turn me. And show me the elf. I looked in the water and saw... myself."
Only after reading this story did I remember, or more accurately I recall photos, of myself going through this initiation ceremony. There was no pond just a hand mirror encircled with plastic flowers. Of course I saw my reflection in the mirror after being slowly rotated by my troop leader, most likely my mother. I do remember having a split second of terror as I was slowly spinning. What would I see? Would someone else be there? But nothing out of the ordinary happened that day.
One of the unifying themes from each of these stories is they all reference or sound like fables or stories you were told around a campfire or at a sleepover. The bare bones of the stories are familiar but then shift and become something more, deeper and more visceral. They relate to everyone on some level. These are the types of stories that become lore and morph throughout the years like the longest game of telephone where someone forgets one part but adds in something new.