Deconstructing Myth – De Groene Amsterdammer

Carmen Maria Machado

Art Streiber

two components Indispensable in a romantic horror story. First, Carmen Maria Machado wrote, A Woman Plus Homeland. What doesn’t belong in home life penetrates it anyway. Not only is the interior safety abolished, the supposed safety is a cover for everything that can’t or won’t tolerate daylight. The house guarantees silence, and this is the atmosphere in which the real horror takes place (it is the icy silence in ghost stories so frightening, the fact that the dead are silent, not that they speak). The second element: marrying a stranger. Not that they were married, but in retrospect, Machado wrote, this was the most frightening element of her story: that she had no idea who she actually collaborated with.

Machado’s story is that of a woman who systematically distrusts, belittles, manipulates, and abuses another woman. This violence happens in small ways that are almost under the skin: a series of text messages with a hint of menace, a hand pulled very tightly around the upper arm, whispering “I hate you” into the ear, and emphasizing that it is so there. It’s all part of it because love relationships between women are more intense (Machado has no experience in this area, it’s her first relationship with a woman). But violence is also more direct in nature. One night, Machado felt so insecure that she locked herself in the bathroom. A car trip turns into a journey through hell as her lover drives her so recklessly that she is convinced she will die.

The experience of reading is ambiguous: from a distance you see so precisely how it all unfolds, it is quite clear that what is happening here deserves the original offense, and also that it will only get worse. At the same time, you are so close to the narrator’s skin that you experience it with her. Oppression, fear, and above all that confusion, do you call it abuse? Isn’t this simply the flip side of ecstatic love? Wasn’t domestic violence restricted to gender relations?

“I threw my story stone into a huge chasm”

Machado has done her best to put her story, which is essentially a somewhat elementary account of the increasingly out-of-control sequence of events, into literary form. The “Dream House” from the title refers to the concrete house in Bloomington, Indiana, where most of the intricacies occur. But it is, of course, primarily an architectural metaphor. “Places are not just places in the text,” Machado notes. Decor is not idle. It is activated through perspective. And so the shape of the dream house is constantly changing: it is a “monastery of promise” where the two lovers sit opposite each other and work behind their laptops, a “den of debauchery” for all that is sensual, a haunted castle, a prison and, finally, a “dungeon of memory”.

The chapters sometimes present themselves as a style exercise, but more often as academic commentary or analysis. This works in part because the lens of a particular type offers a new view or surprising perspective on facts. For example, Machado investigates the phenomenon of the homosexual villain, presenting events through a “folk-tale typology,” linking concrete events with the motifs of classic fairy tales.

But the amount of short, sometimes very short chapters (147 total, in a three-hundred-page book) makes the whole thing a little distracting and sometimes easy. Machado writes programmatically and tends to make her intentions clear. In the chapter “Dream House as Introduction” she explains what it’s about: Breaking through what African-American studies professor Sidya Hartmann called “the archival silence”: the idea that what is included and left outside the archive is political action, and that in the loopholes of the archive are whole realms of unwritten grief. .

Machado writes: “I add to the archive that domestic violence between partners of the same gender identity is possible and certainly not rare, and can take this form,” adding somewhat: “I speak in silence. I have thrown my story stone into a giant chasm. Measure the void with the least noise it makes.” .

Despite the rapid demise of the individual chapters, the book manages to reveal the complexity of the issue – the violence within same-sex relationships and the traditional way it is thrown silent. Machado deconstructs the myth of the lesbian relationship as a paradise sung apart from all that makes patriarchy for women an unholy place; It shows how silence persists not only from outside, but also from within society; I am convinced of the liberating power that breaking this silence can provide to people who have traditionally been marginalized. Not only through arguments and archival research, but especially as she dissects her own experience, she shows how important it is for such stories to emerge from the dungeon of individual memory and add to something like collective memory.

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