Short Stories 366:162 — “Inventory,” by Carmen Maria Machado

coverOof. Reading (or, rather, listening to) this particular story was all the heavier thanks to the current world around us, but I’m getting ahead of myself. This second story from Her Body and Other Parties, falls firmly into contemporary spec-fic/sci-fi territory, and multiple times I found myself shuddering at the ease of the narrative voice in the face of, well, something quite terrifying. Here, the story forms from the list of nameless lovers of a single woman, who tells a brief story about each before moving on to the next. One girl. One boy, one girl. Eventual boyfriends, a wife, and onward, this woman’s tales at first seem to be a kind of backward glance at a life, but then, almost in passing, the mention of a news channel in the background of an outbreak.

What follows is this wonderfully balanced story of both the end of things (as the virus spreads and containment and organizations and states begin to fail) alongside what’s still a progression and narrative of this woman, and her lovers. She moves away from the hot spots, she stays ahead of the virus, she meets someone, and someone, and someone. These moments told through such a particular lens of lovers, is enough to glimpse the larger whole, but still completely centred on her, and it’s just phenomenal.

Given this is a Pride Month review, I also want to take a moment to mention the absolutely central (but not aimed at plot-driving) bisexuality of the first two narrators in the first two tales of this collection, and how Carmen Maria Machado’s prose places sensuality, sexuality, attractions and arousals along such wonderful, broad strokes. I absolutely live for this kind of characterization, where things just are, as casual as breathing, existing as, y’know, queer people do. Even when the world is falling down around her.

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