Willful Creatures

by Aimee Bender
ISBN: 9780385720977

Part of my brain wants to fight with Bender’s stories. They are too fantastic, too naked, and I know I shouldn’t believe in things like children made from potatoes or with irons for heads, even for a few minutes.

She shouldn’t be able to get away with this, I tell myself. Her stories poke a “you can’t do that” rule that got constructed in my head. Repeatedly. It’s as if just by reading the stories, I’m being slightly naughty and setting myself free at the same time.

Which, of course, is wonderful. So I do believe, and everything — the pumpkinheaded people and the boy who stays with the girl who keeps swallowing the pills and the creepy magical fruit stand and they way her characters fall in love with each other — makes a certain and discomforting sense. Even the titles are good (“Motherfucker”, “I Will Pick Out Your Ribs (From my Teeth)”, “Job’s Jobs”, “The Leading Man”) because they aren’t what you expect, even when they are literally about what you should expect.

If you welcome oddness and writers with a flair for at times startlingly clean and unexpected language, you’ll love spending time with Aimee Bender’s stories. If you loved Miranda July’s No one belongs here more than you, or Kelly Link’s Stranger Things Happen or Magic For Beginners, you will be happy to discover Bender. (And if you know and love Bender’s work already and you don’t know July or Link, you need to check out their books.)

Who doesn’t need offbeat, contemporary and twisted fairly tales? Highly recommended.

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