The Color Master by Aimee Bender

11 Sep

In college, undergrad, I had a professor who, after reading a project I was working on, recommended I read some of Aimee Bender’s short stories to get some ideas on form. From the moment I started reading “The Girl in the Flammable Skirt” I was hooked. Who knew a short story could be so magical? So lovely? So full of truth even at its most outlandish. Certainly not me at 22. 

So I’ve followed Aimee Bender’s work and I have read everything I can get my hands on. When I was looking ahead at books to be published in the fall I almost cried from delight that Bender had a new book out. I couldn’t wait to read it! I was lucky enough to get an ARC from NetGalley.

Another lovely addition to the Aimee Bender library. After “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake” it was hard to say if what I wanted to read was more short stories or more novels from this magical author. 2013 does seem to be the year of the short story so I’m glad that it was short stories Bender offers to us and I’m glad she chose these. A little bit of a departure from her myths and fables I love so much, many of these stories offer to us the myth and magic of real life. The magical situations we are placed in every day that we take for granted. “On a Saturday Afternoon” a woman asks two of her closest male friends to spend an afternoon doing whatever it is that she tells them to do. From here, Bender sticks to reality and in this story we are given a peeping tom’s view of what happens when two men are asked to do things they never thought they could do. In “Faceles” a boy is incapable of seeing faces and people, which is close to a reality that many people live with today (known has face blindness). Here we recognize how lost we are without being able to see the whole picture, how we cannot rely only our eyes to see the truth of what it happening in front of us.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a collection of short stories without some myth and magic. “The Color Master” is one of those stories I never want to end. A story I want to climb into and live with for awhile. “Tiger Mending” written after a painting ( by Amy Cutler is so vivid and so precise, it feels like a true story. My favorite is “Americca” a story about a family who starts to notice every day items being duplicated and left in their home–reverse robbed. 

These stories, and the others I have not mentioned, share themes of a failure to feel a sense of belonging, or the sense of loneliness and the sense of seeing what others, we think, cannot also see. Bender weaves, as if she were the Color Master, a string of the color blue and the image of the moon following us throughout many of the stories making the reader feel as though these stories were collections of narratives spoken to Bender in her dreams or, maybe our dreams. Bender shapes for us a world where facing our deepest fears or deepest desires turns out to be less dramatic than we hope and more profound in us when we accept that everything is going to be as okay as it can be. Here we learn that even in the extraordinary so many of us will react ordinarily, as if this sort of thing happens every day.

I suggest that if you haven’t started reading Aimee Bender’s work, you do now. Here is an excellent place to begin.


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