"[Bender] is Hemingway on an acid trip; her choices are twisted, both ethereal and surprisingly weighty. . . . Terrifyingly lovely." –Los Angeles Times “New, exciting, harsh, rugged and unyielding. . . . Every sentence in [Willful Creatures] is a fresh surprise.” –The Washington Post"Contemporary fairy tales, cushioned by goofy humor and a deep tenderness for her characters, that aren't always as dark or as sinister as they initially appear." –The New York Times Book Review “These are stories that you'll read with a sense of discovery and wonder. You'll re-read them just for their beauty.” –The Denver Post "To curl up with an Aimee Bender story is to thank heaven you ever learned to read in the first place. . . . What a treat to spend 15 stories in Bender's vast and wonderfully unhinged imagination.” –Entertainment Weekly Contemporary fairy tales, cushioned by goofy humor and a deep tenderness for her characters, that aren't always as dark or as sinister as they initially appear." –The New York Times Book Review “These are stories that you'll read with a sense of discovery and wonder. You'll re-read them just for their beauty.” –The Denver Post “I am a long-standing, passionate fan of Aimee Bender’s stories. Her images explode, her words ignite. Watching her imagination catch fire remains a sustaining joy in my readerly life.”–Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones
A fabulist in the tradition of Angela Carter, Bender creates contemporary fairy tales, cushioned by goofy humor and a deep tenderness for her characters, that aren't always as dark or as sinister as they initially appear. Her twinkling, chatty prose style carries the reader effortlessly over the road bumps of implausibility. Stories in this collection alternate between absurd scenarios imbued with recognizable human pathos, and apparently ordinary tales pitched at an oblique angle that reveals their true strangeness
The New York Times
Fifteen stories bursting with heart and marvel make up this daringly original collection by Bender (The Girl in the Flammable Skirt). Nameless characters lend the tales an allegorical feel and heighten the emotional impact, as in one story's breathlessly cinematic love scene between a seducer (identified only by an expletive, "the mother-") and his prey ("the starlet"). With stories that turn on stark cruelty, Bender deftly forces uncomfortable identification with unsympathetic protagonists who torment the weak: like "Debbieland" 's collective "we" of predatory girls, and the man in "End of the Line" who purchases a miniature man as a pet and tortures him. Elsewhere, she evokes tender relationships with a balance of earthy heartbreak and otherworldly strangeness. In "Dearth," the sudden appearance of seven potato-children forces the solitary protagonist into messy motherhood; in "Ironhead," a pumpkin-headed couple grieves for their dead child, whose heavy head, literally a clothes iron, kills him with its debilitating weight; in "The Leading Man," a boy with key-shaped fingers wishes only to unlock the secret of his father's wartime trauma. Bender's surrealism is never gratuitous in the fantastical yet truthful stories of this singular collection. Agent, Henry Dunow. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Bender's second story collection is a strong follow-up to her critically acclaimed The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, a New York Times Notable Book. (Her first novel, An Invisible Sign of My Own, was cited by the Los Angeles Times.) This collection again demonstrates Bender's edgy and brilliant storytelling gifts. Not merely willful but strange and surreal creatures populate her quirky but endearing tales. A boy born with key-shaped fingers searches for the matching locks in "The Leading Male." In "Ironhead," a family of pumpkinheads copes with the birth of its differently abled child, while a contemporary Job struggles with woes that surpass those of his biblical counterpart in "Job's Jobs." The weirdness of Bender's well-crafted stories and their spectacle of human emotion will captivate readers' imaginations, hearts, and souls. Highly recommended.-Faye A. Chadwell, Univ. of Oregon Libs., Eugene Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Second story collection from a keen stylist (The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, 1998) intent on rewriting the grim fable of modern life. Fifteen pieces explore the startling and often sadistic relationships among people who love each other, all with a stylistic whiff of Lydia Davis or Rick Moody. "Death Watch," while first, gives an off-putting indication of the author's chilly reserve by presenting the premise that "Ten men go to ten doctors" and then filling in the blanks. More typical of this sleek collection is "Off," about a young woman at a party whose goal is to kiss three men, each with a different color hair. Wearing her slinky silver dress that makes the hostess run for more lipstick and jewelry, the narrator doesn't bank on the presence of a recent boyfriend at the party, Adam, who recognizes her nutty play for attention and calls her on it. A troubling sadistic streak reveals itself cleanly in "End of the Line," about a man who goes to the pet store and ends up buying a little man in a cage. The little man has been captured, like a slave, and taken away from his family, and, bit by bit, the large tyrant tortures his pet out of his terrible inability to feel human sympathy. Another sadistic character is the eponymous "Motherfucker" who beds women "of every size and shape in different cities." He gradually seduces a famous actress in L.A., using her vulnerability to his advantage, then never calls her again, so that in her next movies she grows "luminous in her seriousness" and is finally memorable. Several of the stories deal with the cruelty of the girl adolescent. In "Jinx," for example, two high-schoolers betray each other over a cute boy, and the narrator in "Debbieland,"once a member of a clique that beat up the vulnerable girl Debbie, lives to rue her action. A handful of real moments, presented with bite and wit. Author tour