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It's as if Stephen King and Susan Sontag had a love child and then hired Henry Miller as the nanny. That love child then grew up and wrote these short stories. Machado is fearless.
Every story, pretty much every damn moment, is unsettling and electrifying and ethereal. This is a collection of short stories that doesn't let you off the hook. It's impossible to drop off when reading these stories because it's impossible not to give the author your full attention, especially when she's giving you everything she's got.
From the first page, the author pulls you in. The quote the author starts off with, the one about her body being a haunted house. One she is lost in, one with no doors and only knives and a hundred windows. This may explain what you are in for better than anything I may offer up.
There are some brilliant passages. There are more than a few surprising passages. There is no way to know where any of her stories are headed, so don't even bother trying. I'm not saying the author won't keep you guessing, she will hold your interest. I'm only warning you that trying to make full sense of all of these stories may drive you as mad as the protagonists of all these stories. And maybe that's the point. Maybe that's the genius of this collection. Because they do make you feel incredibly unsettled.
In the first story, the author sort of clues you in by letting the protagonist tell you: I once heard a story about a girl who requested something so vile from her paramour that he told her family and they had her hauled off to a sanitarium. I don't know what deviant pleasure she asked for, though I desperately wish I did. What a magical thing could you want so badly they take you away from the world for wanting it.
Indeed. We know that in human history women have been given lobotomies or locked away or worse for less.
The whole first story is wow. I could muse about this one for a while. It made me damn curious about what was to come. After only one story, I could already feel something emotionally trying about this book, one which might seep into me or reveal me in the end.
The next story was the protagonist's cliff notes on her firsts in sexual experiences of varied stripes. Both stories, up to this point, had the same sensibility and texture. They were so intimate, one could almost feel the uncomfortableness of being there and not wanting to be.
The next chapter titled "Mothers" reminded me a bit of reading "Tropic of Cancer." Anyone that's read this work knows it's like reading words that are swirling in a blender. The author has a machine gun pointed at you and bang bang he starts shooting every word into your flesh except when they hit you, the words feel like whip cream and you just want to bathe in them. It's author Henry Miller was fully alive. So is Machado. While she's not as rapid-fire as Miller, she's in the same zip code.
As I moved on to "Real Woman Have Bodies" and "Eight Bites" I had come to expect the surprising imagery and experimental prose. And I don't mean that to say it became mundane, quite the opposite, it was delightful. The former story was quirky and supernatural, tied up in misogyny with metaphors of women disappearing through eating disorders or becoming invisible with age as they are considered less fuckable. The latter story was poignant the way it ended with layers that were more than the subject matter.
When I thought about it all, it seemed like each story had a protagonist that was going off the deep end. I asked myself if these stories were some crazy fantasies or nightmares all in just one characters head. I don't know and neither will you probably. But I don't think it matters. One can enjoy the ride or dive deep into the layers of each story and come out the other side knowing that reading this collection was worth your time.
WOW. What a debut full of incredibly powerful tales. These stories are both reflexive and refractive: they change and morph sentence by sentence. I love the way Machado writes with a unique vision that challenges readers to think differently and accept queer identity and story-telling as primary. She also manages to push the boundaries of short fiction while including enough references and refrains to situate these tales within literary tropes (especially in "The Resident" and her use of the epiphany moment technique in an early story I will not quote to avoid spoilers). Machado's characters waltz in and out of genres proving that these stories cannot be arbitrarily named or categorized. I cannot wait to see what Machado writes next!
Creepy, in a very human way. Machado looks at the experiences of women and uses it to tell horror stories about the violence inflicted against women. Parts of it can feel like the nightmares you swear are real the next day.
If you're looking for a horror-tinged, feminist work of speculative fiction, look no further. Machado's stories, all told by women, are haunting and compelling. "The Husband Stitch", one of Machado's strongest, is a retelling of the traditional horror story about the girl whose head is held on by a green ribbon, but this time from her point of view. It provokes a consideration of the ways traditional horror stories change if they center the women in them, as complex human beings with thoughts and feelings rather than objects of fascination and horror. Machado's starkly simple turns of phrase stick with the reader: "I'm not hiding it. It just isn't yours" (21). The whole collection of stories is excellent. If you're not comfortable with horror, violence, or sex, steer clear.
This book was intriguing enough that I finished it in under 24 hours, but overall I don't think I enjoyed it.
I'm happy I read this book, but I can't really say I liked it. I found about half the stories to be powerful, and really resonated with me. Unfortunately, the others fell very flat.The problem may have been that they were too vague/experimental or too low on plot for me to really stay engaged. I went back and forth between reading and listening to the audiobook, and I found I enjoyed the audiobook more. If you enjoy experimental, feminist, LGBT+ fiction, I think you'll enjoy this. If you're expecting science fiction or a heavy focus on magical realism (which is how it was originally described to me), you might be disappointed.
I loved this book. Not only is it well written but had me guessing, and questioning the whole way through. Each story unique in its own way, playing on the curves of truth, fiction, and your own creative mind. Not at all what I expecting. Highly recommend.
To echo what a lot of readers have said, this was a little hit or miss for me. The biggest miss was "Especially Heinous" (the Law & Order piece), which unfortunately was also the longest. One thing I did really appreciate was how normalized queer relationships were. Many of the female characters were involved with women, but it wasn't focused on too closely -- you know, as if it was completely mundane. As a queer person, I really appreciated that.
I liked Machado's writing style. She definitely keeps you on your toes but this collection was mixed for me. I loved most of the stories but a few of them... SVU I'm looking at you... were really misses for me.
This book is smarter than I am. I did not understand half of what I read, but I couldn't stop reading it all the same. The stories are super weird and definitely not for the timid, but they're also compelling and thought-provoking. My favorite stories: The Husband Stitch, Inventory and Real Women Have Bodies.
I wanted to like this book, and don't get me wrong there were short stories I did enjoy. However that was only two or three. The rest were just a little abstract for my tastes. I did like the fact that there were diverse relationships. Also The Inventory was probably my favourite story in the collect.
That being said I think the meta experience that was based on Law & Order: SVU really killed my moment and ultimately this this book just wasn't my thing but if you like the absurdly weird stories might be worth a shot.
Really good, sexually charged, dark, weird fiction. Lots of interesting stories and ideas in this collection. A Must-Read. REALLY didn't like the law & order story, but everyone else seems to love it, and the other stories are amazing, so make up for that one dud.
Here be a whole bunch of really weird stories. A writer's retreat to the protagonist's old Girl Scout Camp takes that old Brownie rhyme to the max. Dresses with the last material you would expect. A woman with a green ribbon around her neck that she will not let her husband touch. A story of a pandemic of some kind told through a list of sexual encounters. Everything is weird and unsettling no matter how innocuous the story. I loved every second of it.
some very clever stories but way too much sex (a lot of it pretty sad too) for my taste. I like a little sex in a story but don't enjoy a short story collection that is pretty much just stories about sex.
The stories that I loved from this book I really loved. They are rich with imagery and addressed larger questions of love, motherhood, ageing, body image, mental health, and feminism. I found her writing captivating and her stories elicited a lot of different feelings. I had to slow down to read them. Some I enjoyed reading a second time. Some I can't stop thinking about. Much of her writing is sexually explicit. Very good writing. Pretty dark subject matter.
Remarkable writing applied to stories which did not have much appeal for me. Too many first-person narrators relating stories of self-defeat and self-loathing. Most of these tales have a heavy undercurrent of rather obsessive sexuality. I'm not prude but I would have preferred variety.
Inventive and imaginative. Each story as creative and interesting as the next.