‘Eight Bites’ by Carmen Maria Machado

I’m obsessed with writing about eating disorders. The narrative reliance on measurements, the questions about self-image, the illustrations of control and the literary gymnastics required to circumvent all of these characteristics and, of course, tired writing about women’s bodies—all of this fascinates me. The sub-genre of the ED short story though (inasmuch it can be said to be one) involves some degree of tight creative self-awareness about the tropes that plague the disorders themselves. And so when I read ‘Eight Bites’, I went very quiet and happy and immediately re-read it, because Machado’s story is a tender ghost story about having to live in a body and having to live with what we put into them and wreck out of them. I don’t know if it’s a short story about eating disorders or not, but what I can say is that it is a story about desire. I think about it constantly, and in particular this scene in a restaurant involving a bucket of cold, stirring oysters. I have never eaten oysters, but it makes me want to. 

First published in Gulf Coast, Summer/Fall 2017. Collected in Her Body and Other Parties. It’s online—read it here

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