Talking Scared

45 – Carmen Maria Machado and Literary Kidney Stones

June 30, 2021 Neil McRobert Episode 45
Talking Scared
45 – Carmen Maria Machado and Literary Kidney Stones
Show Notes

This week I have been forced to up my game.  

Our guest is Carmen Maria Machado, and her works is not for the lazy or faint-hearted. From her dizzying collection of short fiction, Her Body and Other Parties, to her one-of-a-kind memoir, In the Dream House, Carmen’s writing forces a humble interviewer such as me, to question how we talk about books, author, character, truth, fiction and all the messy space in between.

In the Dream House  deconstructs what a memoir is and can do, and I had to really think about the questions I wanted to ask, and how to ask them. It is, nominally, a narrative of domestic abuse in a same-sex relationship, but Carmen chooses to tell that story using every literary tool in her (and everyone else’s) toolbox. The result is electrifying.

We talk about privacy versus public, what it’s like to write about sex you’ve actually had, hypochondria, double-standards and the lure of horror and gothic as a way to tell a real-life story of violence and trauma. 

It’s not all dark though. We laugh a lot. Mostly at my awkwardness. 


Her Body and Other Parties and In the Dream House are both published by Greywolf Press in North America and Serpent’s Tail in the UK.

Other books discussed in this episode include:

  • The Argonauts (2015), by Maggie Nelson
  • The Ghost Variations (2021), by Kevin Brockmeier
  • A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip: A Memoir of Seventh Grade (2014), by Kevin Brockmeier
  • Proxies: Essays Near Knowing (2016), by Brian Blanchfield
  • Monster Portraits (2018), by Sofia Samatar
  • The Hot Zone (1994), by Richard Preston
  • The Haunting of Hill House (1959), by Shirley Jackson
  • The Bloody Chamber (1979), by Angela Carter

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Thanks to Adrian Flounders for graphic design.

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