Review: Her Body and Other Parties

Macabre, erotic, twisted, haunting, skin-crawling, timely, darkly comedic, elegant.

I devoured these feminist fairytale horror stories over the course of the week during Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford’s testimony before Congress about the sexual assault she [allegedly] sustained at the hands of Brett Kavanaugh. I can’t decide if that was the best possible timing for reading these or a really bad idea, but consuming the horrors committed against women in this medium during that particular week felt cathartic. I had a place to put my revulsion and terror, my tears and my ironic laughter. Machado created a mood that was, in a word, unsettling, and the metaphors paralleling the tales to their real life counterparts crawled under my skin and into my psyche and camped out long after I’d closed the book for the evening. I want this book on the reading list for future Women in Lit classes when they talk about the #MeToo era.

91ZOrAgmdrLMachado oozes style; I just loved her phrasing and comedic timing. The famous “green ribbon” story made famous by Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark gets an update here, lamenting the fact that men feel entitled to own each and every part of “their” woman. A queer love story that, at first, reminded me of the BEST Black Mirror episode of all time (I could burst into tears and break out into Belinda Carlisle just thinking about it) — “San Junipero” — makes the concept of society’s erasure of women literal in the most horrific way possible. There’s also an apocalyptic outbreak with a LOT of sex and introspection, an insane fever dream/Hunter S. Thompson/alternate universe screenplay of Law and Order SVU, a cautionary tale about self-loathing, and much more. “The Husband Stitch” and “Real Women Have Bodies” were my favorites, and to write a detailed synopsis or analysis of my takeaways from these pieces would steal the chance from you, reader, to experience them for yourself, which you definitely should do.

This book isn’t for everyone. Anybody looking for a classic horror or ghost story might be disappointed here. She creates horror with a mood rather than monsters; and with a dose of sci-fi realism that mirrors current society just a bit too closely for comfort, rather than with otherworldly settings and scenery. Since Machado was clearly inspired by the Scary Stories series, I’m hopeful she’ll follow Schwartz’s footsteps and gift us with another volume or two of Her Body. Any writer who wants to take up the task of writing realistic fiction/sci-fi/horror based on women’s issues, sadly, has plenty of material from which to choose.

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