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Strange, startling, and original short fiction
on December 8, 2003
Aimee Bender's stories are perhaps some of the strangest being published in contemporary literature. With her surreal touch and a nod toward the Brother Grimm, this, her first collection, reads like a series of quick dreams - some disturbing, some funny, and all without regard to the laws of reality. The opening story, "Call My Name", begins the collection with the promise of convention, albeit it an off-kilter one, when a woman follows a man home, hoping to seduce him, only to discover that he has a simple but strange desire that only marginally involves her. While the emotions and situation in this story are odd, they don't prepare the reader for the first line of the next story, "Steven returned from the war without lips." None of Bender's characters are whole, whether they have an actually soccer-ball size hole in their stomachs ("Marzipan"), whether they are imps and mermaids in cognito ("Drunken Mimi"), or whether they are grieving for loved ones. In "Quiet Please," a librarian whose father has just died fulfills the librarian fantasies of several male patrons until she meets one whose extraordinary feats of strength finally exposes her emotional pain. In a line that applies to all the stories, the librarian acknowledges that "it's hard to tell the difference between fantasy and reality."
These odd, rambunctious, and startling stories are not for the literal-minded, but they will charm those who like their short fiction with an irreverent edge.