Book Review: Her Body and Other Parties

by Carmen Maria MachadoHer-Body-And-Other-Parties

Carmen Maria Machado’s debut short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, has marked her out as an effervescent talent in fermentation.

Her gorgeously lubricious, fantastically deranged, genre-twisting stories explore women’s bodies and the physical violence all too frequently visited upon them. Her narratives are strewn with surreal situations masquerading as humdrum lives, and many of her characters are propelled into states of half lunacy by their circumstances.

Machado’s feminal leitmotifs progress from tales of bariatric surgery and outbreaks of a fading disease to a woman’s terrifying struggle to hang on to her sanity in the wake of a brutal attack. Nothing in these clever little fables is ever quite as it seems – and there is invariably a sinister something lurking just beyond our range of vision.

Her language is pleasingly inventive throughout. In The Resident, her protagonist describes a woman’s dress as a “shapeless frock whose fractal pattern spiralled dozens of holes into her torso and created in me immediate anxiety.”

Machado’s style won’t appeal to everyone – especially those who insist upon neat endings to their short fiction. Nevertheless, I feel sure there will be plenty of readers delighted by her virtuoso storytelling.

I look forward to the publication of House in Indiana, Machado’s forthcoming memoir, due for release in 2019.

Many thanks to Graywolf Press for supplying an advance review copy of this title.
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Short Fiction Review: The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere

by John Chu

waterfall

Every so often I like to read a stand-alone short story; one that isn’t necessarily part of a writer’s collection or taken from a multi-author anthology. A case in point is a 6,655-word composition I chanced upon while skimming Goodreads recently. It piqued my interest sufficiently for me to take time out from the novel I was then reading.

The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere by John Chu first appeared on Tor.com in 2013 – a “publisher neutral” website aimed at sci-fi and fantasy readers – before going on to win the Hugo Award for Best Short Story the following year.

Almost as soon as I started reading, I realised it would be difficult to accurately fit this tale into a single genre because it was equally at home under the lgbtq+ fiction heading. Indeed, this very issue had caused (and continues to cause) consternation amongst the purists who felt it should never have won a competition voted on by members of the World Science Fiction Convention. Nevertheless, as a piece of imaginative writing, it seems to have proved enduringly popular with short story lovers.

John Chu is a writer, translator and podcast narrator who earns his living as a microprocessor architect. In his story we enter a future world where a deluge of freezing cold water plummets from the sky on to the head of any person telling a lie (evasiveness merely turns the air muggy). The downpour, however, serves only as a backdrop to the main narrative, which is about a loving relationship between two young men and the problems one of them has coming-out to his traditional Chinese parents.

I won’t give away any more of the plot, but I found it heart-warming and original. The ideal mini, literary interlude.

The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere was also published in Some of the Best From Tor.com, 2013 Edition (Tor.com Anthologies).

This story is freely available to read at Tor.com.

Book Review: Grimm’s Fairy Stories

by Jacob Grimm & Wilhelm Grimm

Taken from the East European oral tradition, and first published in 1812, these stories were originally collated and published in Germany by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.

Although softened to appease Christian sensibilities of the day, this compilation still became a sort of cult horror anthology for children. Indeed, returning to these gruesome little tales as an adult, I can see that they are indeed ‘grim’, and make curious bedtime reading.

Even allowing for the Grimm brothers sanitisation of the stories, they remain far removed from Disney’s cinematic versions of Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and all the other fluffy, uplifting animations so popular with modern movie-goers. Here, incest, cruelty, starvation, torture and violent death vie for space with the happily ever afters. (Decapitated gee-gee anyone?)

Thankfully my seven-year-old self was far less squeamish, and I dwelt not at all on the many sadistic happenings, but simply enjoyed reading about talking bears, heroic giant-slayers and sharp-witted wolves in red bonnets. In short, I was a typical child reader.

NB I don’t wish to appear a pedant, but surely the title, Grimm’s Fairy Stories, is grammatically incorrect. Shouldn’t it be Grimms’ Fairy Stories? I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong.