Monday, October 21, 2013
I recently discovered the beauty and magic of Aimee Bender's short stories. In my opinion, she is a very talented writer, and I would definitely recommend reading some of her work if you haven't already. Once I pick up one of her books, I find it really hard to set down! She wrote a bestselling novel called The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, which I enjoyed, but I think I like her short story collections even better! In no particular order, I've listed my five personal favorite stories here at least from one ones I've read so far. If you've ever read her work, I'm curious as to what your favorites are too, so please feel free to add your comments below!
1) Death Watch (Willful Creatures)
"Ten men go to ten doctors. All the doctors tell all the men that they only have two weeks to live. Five men cry. Three men rage. One man smiles. The last man is silent, meditative. Okay, he says. He has no reaction..." This is how the story begins and ultimately the rest of the story expands on the basic idea that people can have very different reactions to the idea of their own death. Within a mere five or six pages, this story is filled with ironic and humorous twists as well as a few brilliant observations on the deeper meaning that often lies behind the simplest of our actions.
2) Tiger Mending (The Color Master)
This is a story about a girl who travels with her sister deep into Malaysia, after her sister was hired for a special job of mending injured tigers. The need to find out what it is exactly, that causes the tigers to need mending, leads to an unsettling discovery. There are some great sad-but-sorta-true quotes in the story including my two personal favorites:
"During the descent, she gave the doily to the man across the aisle, worried about his ailing son, and the needlework was so elegant it made him feel better just to hold it. That's the thing with handmade items. They still have the person's mark on them, and when you hold them, you feel less alone. That's why everyone who eats a Whopper leaves a little more depressed than they were when they came in."
"It is so often surprising, who rescues you at your lowest moment..."
3) The Meeting (Willful Creatures)
This is a story about meeting someone that is not the type of person you were looking for, yet still being irresistibly attracted to them for a reason that you cannot comprehend. "It is these empty spaces you have to watch out for," the story says, "as they flood up with feeling before you even realize what's happened; before you find yourself, at the base of her spine, different."
4) Fruit and Words (Willful Creatures)
This is a story about relationship troubles that lead a women to a magical discovery that seems wonderful at first but turns out to be horrible. I can't say for sure what Bender intended the story to mean, but to me, it's a great allegory for a rebound relationship. We often trade the dullness or troubles of one world, for a new discovery or person that first seems more amazing, magical, and liberating than anything we had hoped for, only to find out that what lies beneath the surface isn't quite as sweet.
5) The Case of the Salt and Pepper Shakers (Willful Creatures)
This is a story about a man that attempts to explain a murder mystery by considering the meaning behind a couple's collection of salt and pepper shakers. It's extremely clever!