Having read her simply stunning memoir, In the Dream House (reviewed here), I sought out this, Machado’s first book that launched her into the literary world.
This collection of eight short stories – the shortest about ten pages long, the longest a novella of 60 pages – is probably unlike anything you’ve ever read, as it was for me. Machado mixes horror and fantasy and science fiction in a contemporary way that is uniquely her own, completely literary and utterly, utterly strange. From souls being sewn into expensive dresses, to a diet gone horribly wrong, to a writers residency turned terrifying, these stories are intense and beautifully (and playfully) written, grabbing you and holding you in a headlock as they unfold.
My favourite story was actually the one I started out not liking at all, the longest one: ‘Especially Heinous’. Presenting itself as short descriptions of each of the 272 episodes of Law & Order: SVU, it very much becomes its own thing, a weird story of Benson and Stabler’s exploits, including a main thread where two doppelgangers – who seem to be better at their jobs – Henson and Abler, are running over the city just out of their reach.
Odd, affecting and recommended.