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Willful Creatures: Stories

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Willful Creatures: Stories Cover

ISBN13: 9780385720977
ISBN10: 0385720971
Condition: Standard
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Staff Pick

Aimee Bender always manages to tell stories that are both surreal and whimsical, yet entirely emotionally relatable. In Willful Creatures she weaves stories of people with keys as fingers or irons as heads that draw you in and perfectly capture the human condition. She never fails to make you feel weird and wonderful at the same time.
Recommended by Jordan H., Powells.com

Review-A-Day

"Aimee Bender has created a series of glisteningly weird miniatures....Willful Creatures has such precise detail, such tangible feeling, that it is hard to put down. And at best, Bender's vision, with its dark, plucky humor and touches of the bizarre, has the power to make us cringe for our own world, with its many emotional mishaps and moral failings." Anna Godbersen, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)

"Willful Creatures achieves what many story collections do not: it leaves an emotional impression that transcends the individual stories, but does not erase them. This may explain why her readers are so devoted: we feel as though we've witnessed the miraculous rebirth of the short story....Bender's stories are gothic fiction in which mutation and deformity are the resurrection of hope. Amen." Alexis M. Smith, Powells.com (read the entire Powells.com review)

Synopses & Reviews

From Powells.com:

Publisher Comments:

With her singular mix of surrealism, musical prose, and keenly felt emotions, Aimee Bender has gained a passionate following among readers and critics. The San Francisco Chronicle greeted her first story collection with rapturous praise, declaring, "Once in a while a writer comes along who makes you grateful for the very existence of language." Her debut novel was called "as light as a zephyr and unique as a snowflake" (The Washington Post), "a seductively smart read" (Glamour), and "surreal, edgy, and endearing all at once" (USA Today).

Bender is a brilliant stylist, using language with the nimble grace of a magician. She conjures surreal worlds in which authentic emotion blooms. A woman's children may be potatoes, but the love she feels for them is heartbreakingly real. A boy with keys as fingers is seen not as a freak but as a hero. Bender infuses even inanimate objects with human warmth. Rendering grief, loneliness, hope, love, and happiness with exquisite subtlety and cleverness, Bender once again proves herself to be a masterful chronicler of the human condition.

Review:

"Fifteen stories bursting with heart and marvel make up this daringly original collection by Bender (The Girl in the Flammable Skirt). Nameless characters lend the tales an allegorical feel and heighten the emotional impact, as in one story's breathlessly cinematic love scene between a seducer (identified only by an expletive, 'the mother') and his prey ('the starlet'). With stories that turn on stark cruelty, Bender deftly forces uncomfortable identification with unsympathetic protagonists who torment the weak: like 'Debbieland' 's collective 'we' of predatory girls, and the man in 'End of the Line' who purchases a miniature man as a pet and tortures him. Elsewhere, she evokes tender relationships with a balance of earthy heartbreak and otherworldly strangeness. In 'Dearth,' the sudden appearance of seven potato-children forces the solitary protagonist into messy motherhood; in 'Ironhead,' a pumpkin-headed couple grieves for their dead child, whose heavy head, literally a clothes iron, kills him with its debilitating weight; in 'The Leading Man,' a boy with key-shaped fingers wishes only to unlock the secret of his father's wartime trauma. Bender's surrealism is never gratuitous in the fantastical yet truthful stories of this singular collection. Agent, Henry Dunow. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"I am a long-standing, passionate fan of Aimee Bender's stories. Her images explode, her words ignite. Watching her imagination catch fire remains a sustaining joy in my readerly life." Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones

Review:

"Second story collection from a keen stylist intent on rewriting the grim fable of modern life....A handful of real moments, presented with bite and wit." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"To curl up with an Aimee Bender story is to thank heaven you ever learned to read in the first place....What a treat to spend 15 stories in Bender's vast and wonderfully unhinged imagination. (Grade: A)" Jessica Shaw, Entertainment Weekly

Review:

"With clear, crisp writing, Bender's stories resonate long after the final page is turned in this remarkable collection." Booklist (Starred Review)

Review:

"Lyrical and lovely, Bender's prose is also matter-of-fact and direct. She can turn a phrase that takes your breath away....[S]he is Hemingway on an acid trip; her choices are twisted, both ethereal and surprisingly weighty." Los Angeles Times

Review:

"Bender's stories...range in length and voice, floating in the ethereal space between naturalism and magic realism....This collection moves along effortlessly, though you will linger in the 'what' it reveals." San Francisco Chronicle

Review:

"[Bender's stories] are often funny, sometimes dangerous and always strange....None of these stories is longer than a lunch-hour read. Most you could wolf in a coffee break. But they stick with you. They are not realistic, but they are oddly real." The Oregonian (Portland, OR)

Review:

"[A] truly original voice deserving our full and closest attention. Her work soars, allowing readers to view life in a wholly new way. Willful Creatures is an essential work that should be required reading for any who delight in deft prose and truly empathetic portraits of the human condition." Dallas-Ft. Worth Star Telegram

Review:

"Bender creates contemporary fairy tales, cushioned by goofy humor and a deep tenderness for her characters, that aren't always as dark or as sinister as they initially appear." Joy Press, the New York Times Book Review

Review:

"This collection again demonstrates Bender's edgy and brilliant storytelling gifts....The weirdness of Bender's well-crafted stories and their spectacle of human emotion will captivate readers' imaginations, hearts, and souls. Highly recommended." Library Journal

Synopsis:

Aimee Benders Willful Creatures conjures a fantastical world in which authentic love blooms. This is a place where a boy with keys for fingers is a hero, a womans children are potatoes, and a little boy with an iron for a head is born to a family of pumpkin heads. With her singular mix of surrealism, musical prose, and keenly felt emotion, Bender once again proves herself to be a masterful chronicler of the human condition.

About the Author

Aimee Bender is the author of the short story collection The Girl in the Flammable Skirt and the novel An Invisible Sign of My Own. Her stories have appeared in Granta, GQ, Harper's, The Paris Review, and others, as well as heard on PRI's This American Life. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 7 comments:

miso, May 18, 2013 (view all comments by miso)
I brought this book with me when i moved to France for a year. It is a signed copy, and I was worried about ruining in because it was such a pretty book. I think I read it very gently, which is appropriate. The stories are beautiful, so delicate and sweet or sad. Bender's characters do weird things when they freak out, and I often think that if I were just a little more mentally unstable that it would be a good idea to try them, that the characters are definitely on to something. Like, I should go hide in a closet at a party and cover myself with a big pile of everyone's coats. Or eat soap when i fear Intimacy. It's a stimulating and delightful read.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
Cassie Guess, April 8, 2011 (view all comments by Cassie Guess)
This collection is unlike anything I have ever read. A potpourri of interesting characters in completely original settings and situations, this book will not let you down. Every story has a twist of reality that would take place in another world, and while you may find yourself relating to the stories in some silly kind of way, it will take your imagination to the brink.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(0 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
Finkella, January 2, 2010 (view all comments by Finkella)
There are many stories you read and think, what an interesting story or what lovely writing, then, there are stories that you read and you cannot even think afterwords as you are simply blown away. Aimee Bender is such an artist with the English language that reading a story of hers is like meeting with an old friend who knows just what to say to make you laugh from the depths of your heart, to make you think clearly for the first time in a long time, and to remind you that there are those moments that make life truly worth living. Benders' stories are magical and fairy tale-esque however, Bender always keeps an adult audience in mind. There is reason and rationale yet there is a magical understanding that such things as a tiny pet man, a woman with potato children and a boy with keys for fingers truly can exist. If I had not already heard of Benders' work categorized under the genre 'Fabulism,' I would recommend creating such a genre, purely for this rare new way of writing that Willful Creatures embodies from cover to cover.
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(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 7 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780385720977
Author:
Bender, Aimee
Publisher:
Anchor Books
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Short Stories (single author)
Subject:
Fantasy fiction, American
Subject:
Stories (single author)
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20060831
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
224
Dimensions:
8.32x4.84x.61 in. .45 lbs.

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Willful Creatures: Stories Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$10.50 In Stock
Product details 224 pages Anchor Books - English 9780385720977 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Aimee Bender always manages to tell stories that are both surreal and whimsical, yet entirely emotionally relatable. In Willful Creatures she weaves stories of people with keys as fingers or irons as heads that draw you in and perfectly capture the human condition. She never fails to make you feel weird and wonderful at the same time.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Fifteen stories bursting with heart and marvel make up this daringly original collection by Bender (The Girl in the Flammable Skirt). Nameless characters lend the tales an allegorical feel and heighten the emotional impact, as in one story's breathlessly cinematic love scene between a seducer (identified only by an expletive, 'the mother') and his prey ('the starlet'). With stories that turn on stark cruelty, Bender deftly forces uncomfortable identification with unsympathetic protagonists who torment the weak: like 'Debbieland' 's collective 'we' of predatory girls, and the man in 'End of the Line' who purchases a miniature man as a pet and tortures him. Elsewhere, she evokes tender relationships with a balance of earthy heartbreak and otherworldly strangeness. In 'Dearth,' the sudden appearance of seven potato-children forces the solitary protagonist into messy motherhood; in 'Ironhead,' a pumpkin-headed couple grieves for their dead child, whose heavy head, literally a clothes iron, kills him with its debilitating weight; in 'The Leading Man,' a boy with key-shaped fingers wishes only to unlock the secret of his father's wartime trauma. Bender's surrealism is never gratuitous in the fantastical yet truthful stories of this singular collection. Agent, Henry Dunow. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "Aimee Bender has created a series of glisteningly weird miniatures....Willful Creatures has such precise detail, such tangible feeling, that it is hard to put down. And at best, Bender's vision, with its dark, plucky humor and touches of the bizarre, has the power to make us cringe for our own world, with its many emotional mishaps and moral failings." (read the entire Esquire review)
"Review A Day" by , "Willful Creatures achieves what many story collections do not: it leaves an emotional impression that transcends the individual stories, but does not erase them. This may explain why her readers are so devoted: we feel as though we've witnessed the miraculous rebirth of the short story....Bender's stories are gothic fiction in which mutation and deformity are the resurrection of hope. Amen." (read the entire Powells.com review)
"Review" by , "I am a long-standing, passionate fan of Aimee Bender's stories. Her images explode, her words ignite. Watching her imagination catch fire remains a sustaining joy in my readerly life." Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones
"Review" by , "Second story collection from a keen stylist intent on rewriting the grim fable of modern life....A handful of real moments, presented with bite and wit."
"Review" by , "To curl up with an Aimee Bender story is to thank heaven you ever learned to read in the first place....What a treat to spend 15 stories in Bender's vast and wonderfully unhinged imagination. (Grade: A)"
"Review" by , "With clear, crisp writing, Bender's stories resonate long after the final page is turned in this remarkable collection."
"Review" by , "Lyrical and lovely, Bender's prose is also matter-of-fact and direct. She can turn a phrase that takes your breath away....[S]he is Hemingway on an acid trip; her choices are twisted, both ethereal and surprisingly weighty."
"Review" by , "Bender's stories...range in length and voice, floating in the ethereal space between naturalism and magic realism....This collection moves along effortlessly, though you will linger in the 'what' it reveals."
"Review" by , "[Bender's stories] are often funny, sometimes dangerous and always strange....None of these stories is longer than a lunch-hour read. Most you could wolf in a coffee break. But they stick with you. They are not realistic, but they are oddly real."
"Review" by , "[A] truly original voice deserving our full and closest attention. Her work soars, allowing readers to view life in a wholly new way. Willful Creatures is an essential work that should be required reading for any who delight in deft prose and truly empathetic portraits of the human condition."
"Review" by , "Bender creates contemporary fairy tales, cushioned by goofy humor and a deep tenderness for her characters, that aren't always as dark or as sinister as they initially appear."
"Review" by , "This collection again demonstrates Bender's edgy and brilliant storytelling gifts....The weirdness of Bender's well-crafted stories and their spectacle of human emotion will captivate readers' imaginations, hearts, and souls. Highly recommended."
"Synopsis" by , Aimee Benders Willful Creatures conjures a fantastical world in which authentic love blooms. This is a place where a boy with keys for fingers is a hero, a womans children are potatoes, and a little boy with an iron for a head is born to a family of pumpkin heads. With her singular mix of surrealism, musical prose, and keenly felt emotion, Bender once again proves herself to be a masterful chronicler of the human condition.
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