HER BODY AND OTHER PARTIES, BY CARMEN MARIA MACHADO
In Her Body and Other Parties, debut author Carmen Maria Machado skillfully interrogates the female form and all that lies beneath it. Machado’s powerful collection explores not only female bodies and their sartorial trappings (a mysterious ribbon that must always be tied round a wife’s neck, lavish prom dresses haunted by the ghosts of women who have faded away), but the desires and fears that live under our skin, under our bone marrow, even; the subconscious spaces that we ourselves are often unwilling to probe. The protagonists of her stories relentlessly plumb the depths of desire, loneliness, artistry, and memory, and in so doing become a defense of the human capacity for depth and resilience.
Machado is also interested in getting under the skin of a story, in finding new, often macabre life between the stitches of conventional narratives. In “Especially Heinous,” she expands the cast of Law & Order: SVU to include doppelganger adversaries of Benson and Stabler, as well as tortured ghosts of girls-with-bells-for-eyes who plead with Benson to help them. Throughout the collection, Machado makes clear that the women who live through this story and others are not without scars—they are bruised and exhausted, haunted and confused, yet strong in their ability to self-examine; they have looked at themselves head-on and have not looked away, which for Machado is the ultimate strength. Declares the writer-narrator of “The Resident,” after leaving an artists’ colony, “Many people live and die without ever confronting themselves in the darkness. Pray that one day, you will spin around at the water’s edge, lean over, and be able to count yourself among the lucky.”