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text 2018-02-10 23:51
Reading progress update: I've read 14%. "The Husband Stitch" - the first story
Her Body and Other Parties: Stories - Carmen Maria Machado

I've read the first story in this collection and I can see that this is going to be a remarkable reading experience: challenging, engrossing and perhaps a little unnerving.

 

I can also see that I need to review it one story at a time. So here's my review of the first story (about thirty-five pages long).

 

The Husband Stitch

"The Husband Stitch" showed me that stories are dangerous. Its muscular form squirms in my imagination's grasp, sleek and slick but with razor-sharp edges that slice and make me gasp with surprise.

 

This is a story filled with other stories, stories that you will half-recognise and half be surprised by. Stories that make you ask yourself what it tells us about the world that we all know these stories? Are they lessons? Warnings? Truths? Myths? Desires? Whatever they are, they persist and they have power.

 

At one point the teller of the tale (who never shares her name and who says that she has been telling stories all her life, says:

"When you think about it, stories have this way of running together like raindrops in a pond. Each is borne from the clouds separate, but once they have come together, there is no way to tell them apart."

Her stories are all about women and the things that happen to them, few of them good and they power her own story, which is a story and not a documentary and therefore holds meaning but does not always release it easily. 

 

She is a passionate woman, who chooses her boy at a party at the age of seventeen and then gives herself to him and teaches him how to use what he's been given. She becomes first a lover, then a bride ("Brides", she tells us, "never fare well in stories. Stories can sense happiness and snuff it out like a candle."), then a wife and a mother.

Years pass and the only thing she withholds from her husband is the right to touch the green ribbon that is always tied around her throat.

 

The ribbon is the heart of this story. You'll have to decide for yourself what it means.  I believe it represents identity. The part of her that makes her who she is. The part that she cannot be without. Yet, in this story, only women have ribbons.

 

If the story has a moral (as opposed to having many or even a different one depending on who reads it) then I think it is about the inevitable destruction wrought by husbands on wives. I think the "Husband Stitch" of the title is an extra stitch that husbands ask the doctor to add when sewing up an episiotomy wound, to make the vagina tighter, almost virginal. This selfish re-shaping speaks to male arrogance and a refusal to accept their wives in their true forms.

 

In the story, her refusal to let him touch her ribbon becomes a source of strife:

“A wife,” he says, “should have no secrets from her husband.”

“I don’t have any secrets,” I tell him.

“The ribbon.”

“The ribbon is not a secret; it’s just mine.” “

Were you born with it? Why your throat? Why is it green?”

I do not answer.

Her husband, she tells us, "...is not a bad man at all. To describe him as evil or wicked or corrupted would do a deep dis-service to him. And yet-"

 

That "And yet?" is where this story and all the stories within it, take us. It is a place both mysterious and sadly familiar. It is how things are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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review 2018-01-06 22:53
A book of stories about the female experience with a powerful voice
Her Body and Other Parties: Stories - Carmen Maria Machado

I finally read this celebrated book, and it’s quite a read. It’s all at once devastating, complicated, weird, queer, scary, sometimes funny, and the writing was always beautiful. Machado has written about the female experience in a number of different stories, some I enjoyed vastly more than others, some captivating me, a couple dragged on a bit. But this is unlike anything I’ve read before. A book YOU should probably all read! 

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review 2017-12-22 00:00
Her Body and Other Parties
Her Body and Other Parties - Carmen Mari... Her Body and Other Parties - Carmen Maria Machado Beautifully written with great imagination, restraint, and originality. Can't wait to read more from this author.
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review 2017-08-04 00:00
The Summer of Naked Swim Parties
The Summer of Naked Swim Parties - Jessica Anya Blau I enjoyed the style that this was written in - very evocative of the period. I found the characters interesting but for me it didn't go "far enough". I felt there could have been more surprises/developments and it ended rather abruptly for me. It was however a nice conclusion and the story did tie together with the style throughout
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review 2017-07-05 23:20
Her Body and Other Parties: Dark, feminist, erotica, body horror (yes, that's apparently a thing).
Her Body and Other Parties: Stories - Carmen Maria Machado

I didn't realize you could blend erotica, feminism, and body horror until I read this collection, and now I find myself wondering why this combination hasn't been in my life sooner. Machado has created one of the creepiest story collections I've ever read, and it is made all the more disturbing by not shying away from feminist themes. This deft blending of genres is perfect for exploring topics like the relationships women have with their bodies, and how those bodies are treated by others and society at large. Using both old familiar stories, like The Husband Stitch, and new ones, like Eight Bites, these stories scared me and made me think. If you're a fan of horror you should absolutely give this collection a read.

 

Story By Story Impressions and Thoughts:
The Husband Stitch - Brought new life to the old story of the woman who wears a ribbon around her neck.
Inventory - An exploration of sexuality, and sexual encounters, and how those make us human and inform our sense of the world and self.
Mothers - Themes of motherhood, and what that does and does not mean for different people.
Especially Heinous - A dark supernatural re-magining of every episode of SVU, which made me actually want to sit down and watch SVU.
Real Women Have Bodies - Dealt deftly with the visibility of women in society, ideas about beauty, and how appearance and presence are often enmeshed in our culture.
Eight Bites - A story with a heart that revolves around body image and how many women hinge so much of their happiness on being thin.
The Resident - Memory a moving target in this story as it addresses how the damages of the past show their scars on our art and our present.
Difficult at Parties - A gut wrenching look at some of the shadows sexual assault casts across one's sexual landscape in the aftermath.

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