Willful Creatures : Stories – Aimee Bender

Willful Creatures(Doubleday 2005)

I have fallen in love with potato babies. Mourned for the pumpkinhead family’s loss of a little ironhead son. Been seduced by a man who builds houses of desire. Felt pangs of sorrow for a small man kept as a caged pet. And smiled small smiles for the confusion of falling in love with somebody unexpected. Aimee Bender’s writing is imaginative and experimental, it welcomes you in like the most curious of all smiles and from page one you are hers.

This collection of short stories is experimental writing at its best. The blend between reality and fantasy creates a beautiful world full of exotic creatures with personalities that are real and read better than poetry. 

While impossible to really narrow down (these stories are just that good), there are two main components of these incredible stories, and Bender focuses on creative concepts and beautiful language. Two stories, Job’s Jobs and Fruit and Words have the beauty and cleverness to show words as art, to craft language into tangible and lovely things. The very building blocks of language and words and letters become intricate portraits:

He thought of basil breaking open and the drawing of a tomato with red and black paint and the word tomato, consonant vowel, consonant vowel, consonant vowel, and the perfect taste of tomato with basil, and the rounded curve of a man’s back, buttons of spine visible. (from “Job’s Jobs”)

Dreamy and drowsy, Bender’s writing draws you in like a warm and fragrant room, and you just want to soak up all the beauty and magic you see and read and feel. She is intuitive about how she reads the world, and the way it is expressed in her stories is nothing short of exactly right and somehow never heard before.