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The Color Master: Stories Hardcover – August 13, 2013

4.2 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews

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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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (August 13, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385534892
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385534895
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #824,565 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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 before...it'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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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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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.
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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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