- Tom Storm
Carmen Maria Machado's first short story collection, "Her Body and Other Parties," is a bewitching examination of the lives of women, both lived and imagined. The world of Machado's characters feels harsh and unapologetic, yet magical and real. That world is revealed
Machado's style ignores genre classification to produce a work that is eerie and playful, suspenseful and erotic, tactile and endlessly imaginative. It's also quite funny. "Her Body and Other Parties" was nominated for the National Book Award in 2017. Her fiction and criticism have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Guernica and Tin House, among other places. She is the writer in residence at the University of Pennsylvania and lives in Philadelphia with her wife. Machado will join her friend and author Bennett Sims for a conversation on "literature striding into
Some of the stories in your book have lived in other publications first. Was it difficult for you to narrow down the stories you wanted to include in this
I wanted the book to have this theme of bodies and sex and queerness and gender, and I wrote some that wouldn't fit into that category, so I didn't include them. As I got toward the end of the
The book involves a lot of genre-shifting, and at times can feel like a literary exercise to read. Especially in the story, "The Husband Stitch," the reader is instructed to interact with the text.
I very much like when fiction or any kind of writing implicates the reader in some way, and
There is a sense of facing one's fears in the book, and situating one's everyday fears within a more fantastical world. Have readers been thankful for this fear-facing catharsis?
Fear is definitely part of it. People tend to thank me for talking about sex and normalizing queer people. This quality of "Let's face the metaphor of our lives and face these things pretty head-on," I think people are grateful for that. I myself am grateful when I read fiction where the author takes something that I've been thinking about for a long time and turns it on its side, and I'm like, "Oh, my God, you're right!"
I love the way you write about sex, especially queer sex, in this hyper-realistic way. Why do you think it's important to complicate portrayals of sexual relationships in fiction?
Sex is like a unit of measurement. It's part of the human condition. We all have bodies; most people experience sexual desire as a matter of course. Desires change and shift throughout their lives. There is explicit sex in literary fiction, but it's often written by old white men and very reductive and sexist and women's bodies are approached with this disgust or the alienness.
I was really interested in thinking about
Your forthcoming novel is a full-length memoir, "House in Indiana." Is that format new to you? What is the book about?
It's the first time I've written a book-length, personal-fiction writing project. So, it's definitely weird uncharted territory. I'm excited and nervous and having a lot of emotions about it. It's still in progress, so I'm thinking about it a lot.
It's about domestic violence in
Who are some writers that are pushing the envelope in the same way you are in the world of fiction?
Oh, my god, so many. Last year was an amazing year for short story collections.