No body, no body, no body: body alienation & conflict in “Nesting” & “Homunculus”

Find “Nesting” by Lyndsey Croal (@writerlynds) in Crow & Cross Keys (September 2022); “Homunculus” by Rebecca E. Treasure (@R_E_Treasure) in Seize the Press (August 2022).

CW’s: body horror (both), gore (Nesting), disordered eating & body image (Homunculus)

We all have bodies, but sometimes our connections to them become distorted, lost or altered; our bodies themselves may transform, without our permission, in opaque and terrifying ways. Both the stories I’m highlighting this week feature narrators alienated from their own changing bodies, though in very different moods and contexts. (If body horror is a dealbreaker for you, you’ll probably want to skip these pieces.)

The narrator of Lyndsey Croal’s “Nesting” seems adrift, so consumed by her art that she fails to listen to or recognize her own body. Atmospheric, gory, and memorably unsettling, this story alternates between painfully vivid imagery and a calm, almost distant narrator. I nearly called the narrator oblivious, but then, who could anticipate such a surreal series of events? And yet the ending, which I won’t spoil, comes across as a satisfying if not exactly logical result – fitting and recursive. The conclusion of “Nesting” brings the reader back to the beginning; it leaves the story’s events inexplicable, but part of a unified and rather horrifying whole.

“Homunculus” by Rebecca E. Treasure also depicts a narrator’s broken relationship with her own body, but more explicitly; she sees herself as “Pilot,” steering a collection of disparate, disobedient parts. This story offers a raw, disturbing portrayal of how it feels to have an eating disorder – to view one’s own body as uncontrollable, as a site of conflict and betrayal. Though it ends on a hopeful note, “Homunculus” contains gut-wrenching descriptions of Pilot’s disgust with her body and the food it needs, so readers struggling with body image or food aversion may need to avoid it. But if you can stomach it – and no shame if not – “Homunculus” offers an important window into the self-loathing that makes anorexia and other eating disorders so very painful.

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