I have a much higher tolerance for weirdness and experimentation in short stories than in novels. In fact, I tend to prefer my short stories to be a little weird, whether in the story itself or in the way the story is told. And these eight stories by Carmen Maria Machado are just my kind of thing.
I’m not going to discuss all of them, except to say that they all, in one way or another, deal with women’s bodies and women’s desires. These are women who want sex or safety or even just themselves, and their bodies are messy and beautiful and full of life and death.
Most of the stories are fairly traditional in form. “The Husband Stitch,” for instance, feels exactly like an old-fashioned horror story. But all of them have something weird going on within them. It may be a haunting (multiple hauntings in this book) or a dream or a mystery. Whatever it is, it’s going to be strange.
There are a couple of stories that played with form. “The Inventory” is a list of the narrator’s lovers, but also something more that becomes clear at the end. And then there’s “Especially Heinous,” a retelling of 12 seasons of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit based solely on the episode titles. It goes in some directions that the actual show does not.
This is a great collection. Exactly what I like in short stories. If you like weird stories about weird women having weird experiences, you should read this.