Short stories wrap everything up. Short stories leave you wanting more. Short stories quickly move from one topic to the next. Short stories are neat and tidy. Short stories are messy and provocative. Short stories get to the point.
Yes, short stories are all of these things. They are different from a book or even a novella. The character development is less complex, unlike the slow burn of a novel. Short stories leave more things for the reader to infer. But this doesn’t mean the writer can’t paint a vivid picture of the characters and their backstories. Few words can tell the same message.
I especially enjoy when several short stories come together in an anthology. I can read one story on my lunch break. Or I can read several at a time, allowing me to travel to far-away places and collect a wide variety of character perspectives. I don’t have to be totally invested for a long time. I know the story’s arc and wrap-up will be quick, allowing me to move to the next thing.
Admittedly this often leaves me wanting more, whether it is about a character, a setting, a time, a concept, or the author. This was the case with Eight Bites by Carmen Maria Machado. Not only did this story spur me to read more about Machado and her work, but it made me delve deeper into my thoughts and do my own research about the demoralizing and harmful reality of body image and fat shaming. I learned that Machado has had her own weight struggles, which she thrusts headlong into the main character’s experience, validating her authenticity.
Many find it hard to understand the seemingly drastic decision to get bariatric surgery. I know people who have had it done successfully and appear to look and feel great, but I have also unfortunately witnessed some devastating outcomes from this surgery––a friend of my mother’s whose daughter died from it. Is it worth it? I think that decision needs to be made by the person contemplating this serious and potentially life-changing procedure, which is the message I got from Machado in Eight Bites. We can never get inside someone else’s head (or body) and truly know the daily effects of the battling demons that lie within.
How did Eight Bites move you? I’d love to know––send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.