Author Carmen Maria Machado read samples of her work, answered questions, and signed copies of her critically acclaimed book, Her Body and Other Parties, on Feb. 27.
Machado is an accomplished author and Artist-in-Residence at the University of Pennsylvania. Her Body and Other Parties is a collection of short stories that has brought her notoriety in recent years.
Machado was the keynote speaker in the 10th edition of the Lowell Humanities Series for the 2018-19 academic year. The lecture series, which began in 1957, aims to bringing noteworthy figures to campus.
For her part, Machado read two pieces of literature: Blur, a fictional short story, and a chapter from her forthcoming memoir, In the Dream House. Both pieces were based on the same event in Machado’s life, but served as distinctly different tellings of the event.
Blur told the story of a woman who loses her glasses in a gas station restroom and is afraid that when her girlfriend finds out that she cannot make the journey because she cannot drive without glasses, she will be angry with her. Walking along the side of the highway with a stranger, the protagonist reflects on her past.
Her excerpt from In the Dream House struck less of a creative tone. Machado describes the main character’s road trip back from a Yale football game with her girlfriend. A dispute breaks out in the car over who should drive, which leads the main character to feel afraid, as her girlfriend—a poor driver—takes over the wheel. The incident causes the main character to struggle with her emotions, as she fears for her life, sitting shotgun.
The chapter contains a lot of strong language and concludes with a powerful exchange between the main character and her girlfriend when the main character asks to take over driving.
“My body is my bitch,” the girlfriend, as read by Machado, said. “I make it do what I want.”
Following her reading, which took roughly an hour, Machado answered questions about her journey to becoming a writer, her process, and her thoughts on the state of modern literature.
She noted that many of her literary interests include works that contain graphic sexual content and descriptions of the human body.
“I am fascinated with the body,” Machado said. “My next book has [body] fluids coming out of everywhere, so keep an eye out for that.”
Machado was also asked about the presence of queer narratives in her work.
“[Queerness] is not written about that often, I hate to say it,” Machado said.
A copy of Her Body and Other Parties was on sale at the event, and Machado held a signing following the event.
The next edition of the Lowell Humanities Series will be held on March 20, where James C. Scott—a political science and anthropology professor and director of the Agrarian Studies Program at Yale University—will be speaking.
Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / For The Heights