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Literature / Her Body and Other Parties

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The original cover.

"god should have made girls lethal
when he made monsters of men."
Elisabeth Hewer, the book's second epigraph

Her Body and Other Parties is the debut collection of short stories by Carmen Maria Machado, published in 2017 by Graywolf Press.

It consists of eight stories—connected by themes of violence, attraction, and the female body—which straddle the lines between realist Lit Fic, Psychological Horror, and Supernatural Fiction.

The book won the Shirley Jackson Award and was nominated for the National Book Award, among others.

The stories:

  1. "The Husband Stitch"
  2. "Inventory"
  3. "Mothers"
  4. "Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law & Order: SVU"
  5. "Real Women Have Bodies"
  6. "Eight Bites"
  7. "The Resident"
  8. "Difficult at Parties"

This book provides examples of:

  • Body Horror: Lots. For example, like the myth it’s based on, “The Husband Stitch” ends with the main character’s head falling off, which she’s conscious for.
  • Cast Full of Gay: There's at least one lesbian or bisexual female character in each story.
  • Fan Fiction: The longest story in the book is effectively a long piece of fanfiction for Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: It goes episode-by-episode, providing an alternative subnarrative corresponding with each episode's title, taking some decidedly uncanny turns.
  • Fractured Fairy Tale: "The Husband Stitch" is an expanded, modernized retelling of the Green Ribbon myth in a world where every woman has a "ribbon" on some part of her body.
  • Genre-Busting: Attempts to classify the book's stories proved difficulty, drawing comparisons to "uncanny realism" and the work of Kelly Link. There are supernatural elements and even dystopian ones, but the book is grounded in the realistic lived experience of its protagonists.
  • Homosexual Reproduction: In "Mothers," a woman and her female partner inexplicably conceive a child. It's probably a metaphor.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: "The Resident" is from the perspective of a troubled artist trying to finish a Roman à Clef.
  • Really Gets Around:
    • "Inventory" is a list of the narrator's many lovers (of both sexes), with her explaining the effect each one had on her life.
    • The narrator in "The Husband Stitch" is an inversion: she's an extremely sexual person, but only has one lover her entire life, whom she eventually marries (she considers a fling with another woman, but never goes through with it).
  • Surreal Horror: Ghosts with bells for eyes, a woman casually losing her head, evil doppelgangers...
  • Title Drop: Oddly, the title of the final story appears in the story before it, where the writer protagonist plans for her main character to be divorced by her wife for being "difficult at parties."
  • Unfinished Business: In "Especially Heinous," Olivia Benson is haunted by the ghosts of all the girls whose murders her unit investigates, who want her to put things right by catching their killers.
  • Women's Mysteries: An undercurrent throughout the book, especially in "The Husband Stitch," where the protagonist's husband is obsessed with gaining access to the one part of her she wants to reserve for herself.
    "Why do you want to hide it from me?"
    "I'm not hiding it. It just isn't yours."