Her Body And Other Parties
Do you happen to be looking for dark fairy tales, feminist horror stories, and queer science fiction? (Or mix and match the terms: queer fairy tales, feminist science fiction, dark horror, etc). As her publisher writes, "Earthy and otherworldly, antic and sexy, queer and caustic, comic and deadly serious, Her Body and Other Parties swings from horrific violence to the most exquisite sentiment." I don't know how I came across this book, which means I probably saw it recommended on Twitter and saved it to my "READ SOON" list. It was much darker than I originally anticipated, and while I can stomach scary stories, they were scary in a tangible way: harm to women. As NYT Book Review writes (where I also may have come across this book):
In the old myths, women were fenced in by forests, towers, spells. In Machado’s work, cautionary tales are all that’s required. Fear keeps women in line. Their own minds act in the place of moats... [Machado] doesn’t contain our terror, she stokes it and teaches us about it. We see what her characters cannot — that some of the scariest monsters come from within. And learning to identify what to fear, and to fear the right things, can be a kind of power.
My favorite story of the eight was the first one - about a woman with a ribbon tied around her neck. My least-favorite was the longest one (in the middle, referred to as a novella) where Machado re-writes episodes of SVU in short snippet (“Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law & Order: SVU.”) I think I disliked that one because I've never seen SVU and they just got darker as they went along, but as the LA Review of Books points out, "It’s a reclamation of a problematic property that commercializes sexual assault for the purpose of entertaining a massive audience." Which points out how radical Machado's stories are. They center queer women, they re-claim narratives of violence against women, and focus on the female body. One story literally focuses on women's bodies fading away.
Machado identifies as a horror writer; and maybe being a feminist in today's world is to deal with daily horrors against women. Her stories were an astonishing debut collection. Rating: ★★★★