Carmen Maria Machado: Ready to Set the Memphis Imagination Ablaze

by Moth Moth Moth | photos courtesy of the author

Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties, was published by Graywolf Press in 2017. In 2018, the New York Times listed Her Body and Other Parties as a member of “The New Vanguard,” one of “15 remarkable books by women that are shaping the way we read and write fiction in the 21st century.” A television show based on Her Body and Other Parties is currently in development at FX.

There is this galaxy of authors who have been freeing my mind. They form this pathway of elements in my cognition as a writer and reader. A George Sanders book that I borrowed permanently from an extremely lovely and brilliant professor of mine back in the day. These stories introduced me to a world of kinda postmodern magical realism…or something. There were not good words to describe. All I new was this author had been on to something. A familiar sensibility to Octavia Butler’s bending of genre to create new possibilities in works like Bloodchild.

Soon after college I found my way to authors Karen Russel and Kelly Link. Artists tackling these huge loaded emotional ideas through unique mixtures of sci-fi and fantasy and horror and folktale.

But all roads these days lead to Machado. Carmen Maria Machado to be exact. Machado’s work stands out from her crowd of contemporaries, a group who could be possibly maybe catagorized as nervous brilliant folks who write really oddball stories that leave you thinking, laughing, spooked, and a little turned on.

I believe, personally, that you the reader can benefit from becoming friends with Machado’s velvet prose. You can begin when University of Memphis hosts Machado for an event on November 11.

“I think Carmen Maria Machado is going to light Memphis on fire,” says Mark Mayer, Professor of Creative Writing at UofM. It’s that program that will host her visit.

“I see Carmen as one of the great literary innovators of her generation. She’s fearlessly, diabolically inventive. No one writes about the body, about sex, about violence and belonging quite like Carmen does. I think she’s the perfect writer to bring to Memphis—a gothic, splendid city for a gothic, splendid writer.”

With an intro like that there isn’t much for me to say. So I suppose I can skip to the rabid fanfare.

An air of change surrounds Machado’s work. Ready your senses for a writer who finds herself in a galaxy of writers unchained by genre. This star system includes the likes of George Sanders, Kelly Link, Karen Russell. But make no mistake, Machado is a universe unto herself.

To say that Machado writes bodice rippers would be somewhat of a misstep. There is sex, and she is a master of that wild, running barefoot through the forest with hair on fire feeling. You know, that good reading material that makes the realism of your body and experience a little more magical through exposure to text alone.

If a bodice were present I would say it is folded neatly in a drawer, possessed by a thousand ghosts, and is psychically influencing the neighborhood. These stories have humor, levels, and a enough sensuality to keep you coming back. When I say stories I of course reference her book of hits, “Her Body and Other Parties,” released in 2017, this simpering collection will appeal to anyone who is down for a good time yet can keep up with the intellect winking from between the words.

There are dark, deadpan, almost humorless stops within the storytelling that I have become obsessed with. You can hear the author hit the cymbals to signify the punch line, but only after the house has gone ablaze.

Sample the syrup of this writing in your mind and I believe you’ll be obsessed with the sensations Machado can conjure.

Also available is “In The Dream House,” a memoir that experiments with form and expectations, often in a choose your own adventure style that really tickled my imagination.

To say the least. This author is rad. Memphis will love her. Please let her work set your imagination – and loins – aflame.

Carmen Maria Machado is the author of the bestselling memoir In the Dream House and the award-winning short story collection Her Body and Other Parties, both winners of the Lambda Literary Award and both icons of queer literature. She has been a finalist for the National Book Award and the winner of the Bard Fiction Prize, the Brooklyn Public Library Literature Prize, the Rathbones Folio prize, the Shirley Jackson Award, and the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize.

Machado will give a reading of her work, Thursday, November 11 at 6:30PM in the University of Memphis University Center Theatre. This event is free and open to the public.