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Willful Creatures Paperback – 7 Mar 2013


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Review

"I am a long-standing passionate fan of Aimee Bender's stories. Her images explode, her words ignite." (Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones)

"Contemporary fairy tales … and a deep tenderness for her characters, that aren’t always as dark or as sinister as they initially appear." (The New York Times Book Review)

"To curl up with an Aimee Bender story is to thank heaven you ever learned to read in the first place." (Entertainment Weekly)

"New, exciting, harsh, rugged and unyielding … Every sentence … is a fresh surprise." (The Washington Post)

"[Bender] is Hemingway on an acid trip; her choices are twisted, both ethereal and surprisingly weighty … Terrifyingly lovely." (Los Angeles Times)

Book Description

A fantastical collection of stories from the New York Times bestselling author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

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Amazon.com: 21 reviews
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
The Brothers Grimm Meet Contemporary Life: 4+ Stars 20 Aug. 2005
By Debbie Lee Wesselmann - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Aimee Bender's stories are the contemporary descendents of those of the Brothers Grimm, with their surrealism laid on top of human desire and need. In both her previous collection, The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, and this newest one, Willful Creatures, her fiction adopts the tone of fairytales through the straightforward storytelling of the bizarre. Instead of a sausage growing on the end of a nose, Bender gives us potato children and a captive miniature man. Instead of a wicked stepmother, she conjures a collective group of predatory teenage girls. The "willful creatures" of the title take over and change the lives of the people who discover them. While some of these creatures have irons for heads or are made of glass or have keys for fingers, many appear, at least superficially, as ordinary people living routine lives.

One of the most memorable stories is "End of the Line," where a big man buys a little man from a pet shop, keeps him in a cage with a television and sofa, and commits unspeakable cruelties. "The Meeting" starts out like a Talking Heads song of the late 1970s: "The woman he met. He met a woman. This woman was the woman he met." From this staccato, inane beginning, the story develops the theme of ruined expectations and how they can evolve, without warning, into powerful emotions. "Dearth" is the story of a childless woman who discovers a pot of persistent, magical potatoes that grow into children. In "The Case of the Salt and Pepper Shakers," the narrator, a crime investigator, is less concerned with how a husband and wife killed each other at the same moment than he is with the mysterious collection of fourteen salt and pepper shakers he finds in their house.

Readers won't confuse Bender's work with anyone else's. Her inventive plots, coupled with no-nonsense language, result in swiftly told tales. To Bender, contemporary life is as mysterious as words made of xenon, and yet she manages to give us glimpses of raw emotional truth. Staunch realists and literalists might find themselves left cold by Bender's unconventional fiction, but those willing to accept a stark, matter-of-fact surrealism will be enchanted.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
the strange and amazing mind of... 6 Sept. 2005
By insomniac - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This collection is darker than Aimee Bender's first. It contains a few stories in her "signature" fairy tale/magical realist style, including one featuring a family with pumpkin and clothes-iron heads and one about a boy with a hand made of keys (whose destiny unfolds as he discovers which lock fits each). But my favorite here are less twisted with symbolism. "Debbieland" is layered with anger and desire, and she deftly uses the first person plural to reveal just how disconnected the narrator is from herself. "Off" is angry too: it may or may not star the heiress character we met in The Girl In The Flammable Skirt, an idle and beautiful woman partial to inappropriately dressy couture who finds herself in infuriating and embarrassing situations when she tries to elicit attention from men. In "Off" she decides to collect kisses from three men chosen by hair color, and finds herself confronted with the unfinished buisness of her last relationship; by the end of the story this haughty and self-confident woman is reduced to hiding in the coat closet with a pile of coats, hoping that the man she "doesn't love" will come and find her there.

Aimee Bender is still growing and developing as a writer, and this book is a fascinating look into her maturing voice. She's always been adept, original, witty, and strange. Now she's finding her depth. I expect great things to come from her.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Bender Bliss 26 April 2006
By Amy Adler - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I love the works of Aimee Bender. Willful Creatures proves that Bender does not stale with age, but get better and better and better. I recommend all her works, of course, but I believe Willfucl Creatures to be her best. A MUST READ for all fans of magical realism, stories about relationships and/or heartache, or just good stories in general. An evening spent with Aimee Bender is an evening spent in bliss.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
This quirky, surreal short-story collection is perfect! 11 Oct. 2005
By CoffeeGurl - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the strangest short-story collections I have ever read. Then again, I had come to expect that from the author of the brilliant short-fiction book The Girl in the Flammable Skirt. Now Aimee Bender writes some rather dark, strange and disarming stories in Willful Creatures that will truly shock you and keep you thinking long after you finish reading each story. The characters are nameless, unflinching in their actions and quite unlikeable, doing things that will repel and compel you at the same time. From bad parents, shameless seducers and abusers who target upon the weak, this collection has it all. My favorite stories are "The Leading Man," "Debbieland," "Dearth," "The Meeting," and "End of the Line." All of the stories are amazing, but the aforementioned ones stood out the most for me. I marvel at Bender's writing style. She reminds me a great deal of Amanda Filipacchi in that she mixes the outlandish with the mundane in an astonishing, hilarious twist. Are you in the bargain for some literary and surreal short stories? I recommend you read Willful Creatures. And give The Girl in the Flammable Skirt a whirl while you're at it.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
And every story is a metaphor 12 Nov. 2007
By Pasiphae - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Intellectually, I admire Bender's skill and style. Her work is vivid and visual. But for me, the everpresent metaphor at the heart of each story becomes tiresome because it's always so creepy. Potato babies, a tiny man in a birdcage; I wonder if she can write a story about people and what they do to each other without resorting to the grotesque and surreal. Certainly her fans would disagree with me. They must be seeing something in her work that I don't. I don't have this trouble with the equally creepy and metaphor-laden work of Angela Carter, because there is a certain savage beauty in Carter's work that I feel Bender's work lacks. Maybe it's mordant vs. morbid, or maybe Bender's work has a lack of heart. I enjoyed this collection much more than the first collection, and I'm perfectly willing to concede that it's me. I'm just not "getting it."
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