‘The Husband Stitch’ by Carmen Maria Machado

I read this online when it appeared in Granta and immediately was charmed by it, though also so intrigued, because nearly all the stories mentioned within this story, as well as the frame story (a woman with a ribbon around her neck, no spoilers here!) were all literally taken from a book called Scary Stories that any parent of an elementary school or middle school child will know. I am so intrigued by that. None of these stories were original. Yet all are re-imagined in a completely original, literary, compelling way – i.e. like writing a story about Law And Order: SVU which this writer has also done. But it is not out of reach, for anyone, to be inspired by material like this. This is a talent that is besotting as well as making it clear that when we use material at hand, memorable and renowned stories can result. But literally. I know little kids for whom the story about the mother replaced by the stranger with a glass eye and wooden leg were unreasonably frightening. So deeply troubling and frightening. There is a way these Scary Stories and the other scary stories (the violent crimes against women portrayed in Law And Order: SVU) become new and unprecedented myths around which to build stories – no less powerful than myths about Circe, Medusa, Daphne, which several of Carmen Maria Machado’s stories also evoke. 

First published online in Granta in 2014 and available to read here. Collected in Her Body And Other Parties, Graywolf/Serpent’s Tail, 2019)

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