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The Color Master: Stories Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (August 13, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385534892
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385534895
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #383,826 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Bender’s first short story collection since Willful Creatures (2006) once again opens the door to surreal otherworlds where master seamstresses mend broken tigers and an ugly woman weds an ogre only to have her heart broken when he’s tricked into eating their six children. Bender ventures into the real world as well, exploring the psyche of a woman who becomes obsessed with role-playing with her husband—to the eventual detriment of her marriage—in “The Red Ribbon.” In “The Fake Nazi,” a man’s guilt over his brother’s misfortunes and the part he feels he has in them leads him to insist that he committed atrocious acts during WWII. “On a Saturday Afternoon” finds a young woman living out a sexual fantasy that leaves her feeling unfulfilled afterward. A solitary college student befriends a lonely older man and discovers a ring she threw away in his possession in “Bad Return.” Bender has an extraordinary gift for drawing readers into her magical, mesmerizing tales, and those looking to lose themselves in fiction will not be disappointed. --Kristine Huntley


“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

"Full of humor, wit, and pathos, The Color Master is the work of a writer with a strong, distinctive point of view, and with enough confidence to let it lead her into fresh and exciting places."
--The Boston Globe

"All these stories made my mouth water."
--Alan Cheuse, NPR's "All Things Considered"

"Bender became a bestselling novelist with The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, but her new collection returns readers to her real forte: short stories that combine gnomic postmodern prose with whimsical fairy tale reveries...[T]he best stories are mood pieces about the mysteries of female friendship ('Bad Return') and bittersweet pageants populated by mall-worshipping adolescents ('Lemonade'), still fanciful but so light on gimmick that the reader senses -- like the lovelorn atheist in 'The Doctor and the Rabbi' -- 'the realization that there were many ways to live a life.' Many ways to write a life too, and Bender colors them with a tincture out of dreams. The world is everywhere present in this collection, but it gets the moon in, too."
--Publishers Weekly

"Stories that range from fairy tales to quasi-erotica, all showing Bender's versatility...Bender's gifts as an author are prodigious, and with each story, she moves the reader in surprising, not to say startling, ways."
--Kirkus Reviews

"In the lively pages of Aimee Bender's dazzlingly dreamlike new story collection, The Color Master, Asian tigers split their skins and are mended by specially trained seamstresses; a woman who is 'ugly, by human standards,' falls in love with a man-eating giant she meets in a tavern; and random gifts, including cans of lobster bisque, materialize out of thin air, perhaps delivered by ghosts. These fantastical elements season the soup of Bender's savory and sublime human sagas...So many of Bender's sentences both settle and unsettle, and deserve to be read aloud for pure pleasure."

"In Aimee Bender's short stories, the value of life is measured in terms of goodness, succulence and simplicity, all qualities that can be tasted, chewed and ultimately swallowed by the mouth or the mind."
--The New York Times Book Review

"This is Bender at her best, using her signature style to reveal (and perhaps overcome) the obstacles that keep us from understanding each other."
--Miami Herald

"Bender has an extraordinary gift for drawing readers into her magical, mesmerizing tales, and those looking to lose themselves in fiction will not be disappointed."

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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See all 68 customer reviews
Like any short story collection, some selections are stronger than others.
This is the type of book where reading just one story a day would make more sense, as it would give you time to ponder the stories.
Aimee Bender is a short story master, weaving bite sized threads of life with skill, compassion and magic.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Marion VINE VOICE on July 15, 2013
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.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By K. Bunker VINE VOICE on July 8, 2013
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By P. Mann VINE VOICE on November 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I started reading this collection with great expectations. I love short stories, so I was eager to explore. After the first story, though, I put the book down for a few weeks. I'm not sure how to describe a three-page story without giving away too much, but in short, it dealt with a group of youngsters who eat lots of apples. There's nothing real about this story, and if it's a parable or an allegory, I missed the point.

A few weeks later, I picked the book up again, and this time, I found more to my liking. The second story, for instance, "The Red Ribbon," pays homage to the folk story about the man who marries a woman who always wears a ribbon around her neck. She tells him never to remove it, and he obeys until one night curiosity gets the better of him and he unties it. As we all know, her head falls off. In the story in this volume, an indiscreet conversation one night at dinner leads a wife to believe that her husband has fantasized about paying for relations. She thus starts charging him, a bit of role playing, if you will. Soon, though, the role means more to her than to him, and the story verges into a bit of a surrealistic world. That's fine. I liked this story.

These two stories, the first two, do a pretty good job of setting the boundaries for the remaining stories, which verge between complete fairy tale/fantasy and those with one foot in reality and the other in another world. Indeed, the title story, "The Color Master," is an excellent example of this: a retelling of a fairy tale updated uncomfortably to fit in with the modern world.

There were, for me, some definite hits in this collection, but in general I found that the stories were a bit too detached for me, as if not even the author had an emotional investment in creating them. So when I finished a story, I found myself thinking about it more intellectually than emotionally--and, sadly, not all that intellectually at that.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Monika on August 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover
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.
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