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The Color Master [Hardcover]

Aimee Bender
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
RRP: 14.99
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Book Description

15 Aug 2013

The New York Times bestselling author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake returns with a wonderful collection of enchanting, strange and magical stories.

In this collection, Bender's unique talents sparkle brilliantly in stories about people searching for connection through love, sex and family - while navigating the often painful realities of their lives. A woman plays out a prostitution fantasy with her husband in 'The Red Ribbon' and finds she cannot go back to her old sex life. An ugly woman marries an ogre in 'The Devouring' and struggles to decide if she should stay with him after he mistakenly eats their children. 'Tiger Mending' follows two sisters who travel deep into Malaysia where one learns the art of mending tigers who have been ripped to shreds, and in the title story, 'The Color Master', a company of tailors endeavour to capture the colours of the sun, moon and sky.

Evocative, funny, sad and beautifully written, The Color Master cements Aimee Bender's reputation as one of the most imaginative and exciting writers of our time.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Hutchinson (15 Aug 2013)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0091953898
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091953898
  • Product Dimensions: 22.5 x 14.5 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 161,007 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A mix of modern fairy tales from the LA-based author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake ... Bender is a bold writer; her stories unpredictable and exciting." (Red, Book of the Month)

"Aimee Bender spins the surreal wheel of human experiences and comes up with the enchanting story collection The Color Master." (Vanity Fair)

"With her magical writing, Bender creates extraordinary tales ... that never take you where you think they will." (Sainsbury's magazine)

"Aimee Bender is at her wickedly best in her latest short-story collection, with tales both dark and comic . . . Bender's work has never been the stuff of manic pixie dream-girl lit. Her fairy tales are dark and wicked, not hipster-precious and faux old-timey. Her sorcery altogether avoids the saccharine, and the thrills and chills of this sometimes sexual, often horror-drenched collection are completely adult. At a time when realism reigns supreme over the literary landscape, one can argue it is absolutely imperative that Aimee Bender be spotlighted for what she is: a vital MVP of modern letters, period . . . In our world of flash-and-trash insta-Internet-oddities and stranger-than-fiction social-media-bloopers, she will have surpassed the simple feat of inventiveness to own a most dazzlingly urgent relevancy." (Los Angeles Times)

"The Color Master offers 15 new tales that dazzle, confound, electrify, disturb, incriminate and empathize. It is sympathetic toward cake that cannot die and hopeful about the healing arts of darkness. It is absurd. It is remarkable. It induces mental whiplash . . . And it's so vividly imagined, so unusual, that those of us who read books with the hope of encountering language and ideas we haven't encountered before will feel -- well, we'll feel heard." (Chicago Tribune)

Book Description

The New York Times bestselling author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake returns with a wonderful collection of enchanting, strange and magical stories.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Lady Fancifull TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
I have always found the short story - or rather, the collection of short stories, to be a problematic venture. To a fast reader, one story is not enough for a reading session; yet a well-written story demands a pause for absorption. This is why possibly its best placement is within a magazine, as a single. With a short story collection, if it is the collected works of several writers, the difference in voices, one to another, is a bit like eating a spoonful of steamed fish, followed by a Yorkie Bar, followed by a raw egg, and so on. Or like a collection of literary slaps in the face.

When it comes to a collection by the same author, unless they are highly skilful, the reader quickly masters and absorbs the writer's literary tics and style, and starts each new story becoming surer and surer of what the author is doing and will do - a sense of déjà vu sets in, the sense of one story written again and again with marginal variation.

Rare is the author who masters this, who can work creatively WITH the form, again and again, but not be mastered, or stultified by it.

Preamble over - I do believe Aimee Bender IS that master. There is a deft, sure use of precise writing, there are (very different) narrative journeys, the volte-faces are satisfying, the characters individual, Inevitably there are some stories which are close to perfect, others a little less satisfying - but, rare is the novelist without the occasional phrase, character, or event that doesn't act like a sudden stumble, on the reader's eye and ear.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A touch of magic... 16 Aug 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
The best description I can come up with for this collection of fifteen short stories is 'modern folk tales'. Ranging from more traditional tales of magic and monsters to very modern stories of sex and technology, if there is a common theme, it is of alienation and loneliness. Some of the stories are short and quirky, others longer and better developed. Sometimes humorous, sometimes moving, occasionally creepy, the stories are extremely well written and compellingly readable.

While the quality of the writing never wavers, I found the quality of the stories themselves to be somewhat variable. There were some that I felt hinted at a depth that didn't in fact exist, and others that seemed rather pointless and occasionally a little gratuitously distasteful. For instance, the first story Appleless is a beautifully written tale glossed over with an air of magic and mysticism, which in the end fails to disguise that it is fundamentally a rather unpleasant description of a rape. There are undertones in it of Eve and the fall from grace, but the story is too short to have developed these well.

However, to offset against the stories that don't quite work, there are a few that really stand out as very fine examples of the short story form. Here are a couple that I think would make this an enjoyable book for most fiction readers, and an essential read for those with a love of folk, faerie and magical realism...

The title story, The Color Master, is a prequel to Perrault's Donkeyskin, in which a king wishes to marry his daughter and orders three dresses for her, one the colour of the moon, one the colour of the sun and lastly one the colour of the sky. Bender's story takes us to the store where the dresses are made.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  72 reviews
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quintessesntial Aimee 15 July 2013
By Marion - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've been an Aimee Bender fan since I read one of her stories in Tin House. She's her own unique, funkylicious self and it comes through in her writing. Of the 15 stories in the book, my favorite was "Tiger Mending". It literally glowed with freshness and imagination, something sorely lacking in most short stories I've read lately. The title story, "The Color Master" came in a close second: the tale of a store in a kingdom that only makes clothing the colors of natural elements. There's a color master who advises the workers, finessing the finished products by adding as many as forty colors. This story literally brings rainbows to your eyes and makes you see colors in nature that you never saw's that good.

If you're looking for a book full of stories that will make you see the world around you differently, then this is the book for you. I've been reading for over 50 years and these stories astonished me with their ingenious originality.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stories to wonder at, and over 8 July 2013
By K. Bunker - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Aimee Bender is certainly a distinctive and unique writer; I think any reader who knows her work could pick one of her stories out of a crowd after reading the first couple of paragraphs. Much of this uniqueness is in the surreal elements that often feature in her stories, but it's also in her soft, rich, and lyrical narrative voice. Even when rather horrific things happen in her stories (which isn't often) her voice is soft and understated.

But it's probably the magical and surreal aspects of her stories that are most distinctive. In "Wordkeeper," people all over the world find themselves losing words -- they're unable to remember the names of everyday things. In "Tiger Mending," a skilled seamstress is recruited to help with stitching together wild tigers who keep splitting open for unknown reasons. In "Americca," a family finds that small items -- a tube of toothpaste, cans of soup, and so on -- keep mysteriously appearing in their home. Some stories don't have any element of magic, but these too are inventive in their bizarre situations and eccentric characters.

When stories take place in a strange or unreal world, it can be difficult for readers to connect with the characters. Adding to this is the cool and distant fairytale-like style that many of these stories are written in. In a few stories, the central characters aren't even named, but are referred to as "the rabbi," "the secretary," and so on. It's a mark of Bender's artistry as a writer that in spite of these seeming obstacles, her characters come through as real, living people that we connect with and care about.

Having said these positive things, I do have reservations about some of the stories in this collection.

About half of the stories here feel rather unstructured; they seem to wander from one idea to another. In "A State of Variance" for example, a woman finds herself unable to sleep for more than an hour a night. Because of this she often has quick little hallucinations, but she does her best to hide this. Meanwhile, her son is reaching adulthood, and he finds that no one trusts him because his face is too perfect, too symmetrical. He tries to get into a fight, hoping that a solid punch will make his face less symmetrical. What do these elements have to do with one another? Why are they in the same story? What connects the beginning of the story to the end?

The stories of this sort feel like baskets into which Bender has tossed a collection of charming but unrelated ideas, and maybe that's how they should be accepted and enjoyed. Alternatively, maybe I'm missing something -- some thread of connection that's too subtle for my eye. Whatever the case, I found these meandering stories less enjoyable than the ones with tightly structured plots where all the ideas were more clearly tied together.

But in all of these stories there is that unmistakable Aimee Bender voice, and that voice is always a pleasure.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishingly bizarre and fantastic! 15 Aug 2013
By Monika - Published on
I should state up front that Aimee Bender is one of my favorite authors, right up there with Haruki Murakami. Even though I knew I'd likely fall in love with this new collection of short stories (and I did!), I was blown away by the extent of her versatility and imagination in The Color Master. From teenagers at the mall in "Lemonade" to ogres in "The Devourings," each of the fourteen stories is set in its own fantastical world with its own voice, tone, and set of rules.

The title story, "The Color Master" was by far my favorite. This is a spin-off of the French fairytale "Donkeyskin" by Charles Perrault. It was a little more plot-driven than the others, yet had a beautiful, glittery air of magic to it. The tailors had to make dresses the color of the sun, the moon, and the sky (!!!)... pretty incredible.

This collection is reminiscent of fables of old, containing social commentary and deeper lessons to be learned. Bender definitely has a surrealist bent, so read these offbeat, eccentric stories knowing that, in some cases, you may be waking up before the dream is completely over!

As much as I relished each story, I was still surprised by how astonishingly bizarre and avant-garde they are. If you are new to Aimee Bender's work, you may want to read The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (novel) and Willful Creatures (short stories) first.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other compensation for this review.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Aimee Bender is someone I'd like to have coffee with... 30 Jun 2013
By Diane Moore - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I tend to gravitate toward short stories the same way I do toward short films, or tapas. Don't like this one? Try another one! It takes a special short story writer to grab my attention, and Aimee Bender was the first author I chose, to bring me back into book reviewing after a couple of years. I have only read her short story collections so far, but I know that I need to read the novels as well, because I'm sure they are just as amazing.

I have read some reviews for some of her books where people tell others that they're "not going to like it." I'm not going to say that. In fact, I'm going to say the opposite. Whether your genre is romance, mystery, western, etc...try it out. I tend to avoid fantasy/sci fi or surrealism like the plague, because they tend to frustrate me, and I normally love truth, much more than imagination when I read a book. But, I love how her books take me away to this other place. It's almost like she accesses a different part of my brain. She is an amazing, creative storyteller! I want to know what makes her come up with such crazy ideas!

Some of my favorites from this collection are: "Red Ribbon", a story about a woman, who, after having a dinner conversation with her husband about his college roommates and prostitutes, decides to spice up their sex life. After that, she can't go back to the way it used to be, and it changes her completely.

"Faces," about a boy who has "facial illiteracy," and his mom discovers it one day after asking about his friends and what they're like. She discovers that he can't really see faces. (I was almost convinced that this is a real thing, after reading this story.)

"Lemonade," one of my favorites, and one of the more "normal" stories. It was about teenaged girls and the angst of growing up and having female friends. Though this may drive some readers crazy, I loved that there were not a lot of periods while we were in Louanne's thoughts. Also, it had a lot of run on sentences. A typical woman's brain to me is like a telephone cord, with everything all tangled up. I really connected with the character, because I felt that she was somewhat strange, an outsider like I was, trying to fit in with her friends and knowing that she didn't.

"A State of Variance," about a woman who turned 40, believed she would die at 80, and the fact that she could now only sleep for an hour at a time. Her son doesn't like the fact that he has a perfectly symmetrical face, and goes out of his way to get it messed up.

"Americca," was another one of my favorites. A family who is getting "reverse robbed." Things are showing up in their household, sometimes in duplicates. They have no idea where any of the items are coming from. 10 year old Lisa is trying to figure out who the "ghost" is that's doing this.

"The Devourings," the last story in the book. About a woman who married an ogre. This ogre eats people and children, but not the ones he knows personally. When he accidentally eats their children, his wife escapes, and tries to make it on her own in the woods, which is also ogre territory.

This is recommended reading for anyone who wants their brain turn to mush, in a good way.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Creative, Bizarre, Love Them, Hate Them 5 Oct 2013
By Just My Op - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
If nothing else, this collection of short stories by the author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is very creative and quirky to the point of being downright bizarre. Some were disturbing but likeable, and I enjoyed the author's imagination. One I just didn't get, probably the fault of the reader rather than the author. And then I came to Tiger Mending. I absolutely hated that story. Sure, I can see how maybe it was intended as allegorical, and it was well written, but it hurt me to read it. So, at that point, the book was earning a solid 3 stars from me.

Then I read The Color Master and A State of Variance. These two stories are absolutely brilliant, and I loved them both. Again, very creative but also magical and touching, very special.

So, for a mixed bag of stories that I loved and hated, this one ended up getting four stars from me.
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