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Willful creatures : stories
Aimee Bender
Adult Fiction BENDER

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From Publishers' Weekly:

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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