I like the rain. I want to have a spring bookworming rain party full out with wellies—but not those Hunter Boots; absolutely not—, with yummy airy things like puffed pastries, meringues, mini fluffy cheese cakes, mousse dessert, macaroon, biscuits, crepe, and Earl Grey tea, definitely Earl Grey tea. and Tillandsia. We'd have lots of "air plants". Lots! And We'd read, but not anything structured. We'd bring books, trade books, read out-loud, pass books around between sentences and paragraphs. We'd leave with books we hadn't discovered.
I like books like I like my Jazz; euphoric, dangerous, occasionally a bit manic, sorrowful, bleak, raging, mood-incongruent, mournful, unforgivingly ragged, symbolic in a quiet way, warm apple pie for the soul. Give me a Plath style. Yōko Ogawa, M. Roach,
Criteria: Not rated on likability of characters. Not objective. I like Moxie Soda; chances are you don't.
time spent in that before bed reading slot:
5-until blurry eye 4-Later than I intended, but I still kept to my extended, extended reading time 3-I really should have been to bed an hour ago 2-customary 30 minutes. 1-book. side table. eyes closed.
How are common themes handled?
5-With an aesthetic that repurposes everyday themes into something fresh. Think of Hole Celebrity Skin covered by Cat Power 4-there is a comfortable air of familiarly.
3-Deja Vu 2. No deviation from its mates 1. Devastatingly trite, redundant, and stale.
Where would you keep it post-reading?
5-Next to my bed. 4-it's the center piece of my favorite bookshelf 3. On my other favorite bookshelf, but it's a bit dusty over their 2-Great cheap bookends 1-It never made it out of the box marked 'moving'.
5- Where is my teddy bear? Emotional-hangover 4- If I wasn't so emotionally stunted I'd cry. 3. Did James Cameron co-wrote this? Artfully contrived. 2- calculative emotional manipulation. This was literally written by James Cameron.1- I…feel…..nothing.
Mechanics (plot structure, voice, presentation, word choice, sentence structure, characters, writing style, pacing, and consistency):
5-Chanel 4-Prada 3-J-Crew 2-Gap 1-Old Navy
I adore Amie Bender. Her writing is lush, creative, exploratory, solid, memorizing, and slowly develops gentle whispers of surrealism, all the while being incredibly relatable. This collection, however, was a shuffle of the good stuff and the not so good stuff.
This collection, as far as I’m concerned, centers on themes of loneness in its most basic form, maintaining ones identity, and moments of personal evolution. And sadness…? Sure I’ll put that one in for good measure. Self-agency, the boundaries between self and others, and personal and body integrity are included.
All and all these short stories are successful, or, as other reviewers have pointed out, some are so successful that they provide a crutch for many that limp around unsuccessfully. Lemonade, a State of Variance, and Americca, among others were un-relatable, floundered within lengthy sentences and had bulkiness compared to the shorter pieces. Dense writing = not your forte, Ms. Bender.
The Color Master…
It focused on the concepts of transition, death, the expression of one’s emotions, and to a very large extent, the suppression of emotions. If this story was at a cocktail party it would dwarfs in the sociability and confidence of its fellow peers. This doesn’t mean that The Color Master doesn’t hold its own, because it does, it just wasn’t my favorite.
The Word Keeper sets its sight on exploring embracing the present while focusing on the potential of the future. Technology was used as a background, but obviously for symbolic purposes. Its depth is remarkable and it has a clever stillness about it.
The Doctor and the Rabbi was among two or three stories that explored the concept of a higher power, or perhaps external sources of guidance one may need during trying times. It relied less on surrealism and metaphors, which was a delightful change. Tasked with writing about this topic, other authors would have presented a jumble of pompous life teaching blabber and forced revelations. HA! Not here my friend, here we have a genuine exploration into self, others, and oneness.
On a Saturday Afternoon was lush with emotions and powerful in scope accompanied by subtle threads of sexuality and titillation; ok they were pretty overt, but you have to admit it wasn’t pornographic and was really respectable. At its most basic level it was about a woman who entices two presumably straight men into having a romp; just the two of them. Loneliness and an attempt to openly exist within it, created a magical and brave portrait of socially constructed rules and expectations. The underlining meaning behind these actions forced shifts in social and personal relations, creating a cavern between the internal self and the external expression of intimate links with others. Physical and emotional connections between a female character that initiated a tossing of the sexual sorts between two straight men—presumably, or maybe this is just something I fancy to embed in the storyline—may have ruptured a great balance that she maintained. It’s a cumbersome thing, realizing that lovers are better suited as friends, and that friends should stay friends, and any reconfiguration may yield tremendous consequences; do I even need to bring up mixing alcohol with friends? This was my FAVORITE story.
Faces was so Oliver Sacks-tian. The main premise was about a child who could not perceive facial expressions, or faces at all. What a glorious romp through psychology and metaphors that were steadily silent, but had a huge punch. Textured and lush language balanced a heavy emphasis on symbolism in a style that is unique to Bender’s work.
Ultimately, the stories felt off kilter, and while having a general theme, did not seem to blend together as a collection, but rather as short stories. This is fine, but it is unusual for an author who usually writes with a solid grasp of her widely praised style. In a previous review I broached the idea that she is teasing out her craft, as a means of refining it. This trend has now leached into another one of her works, which makes me question my previous assertion. Is this the new bender? I could possibly conceptualize this last publication as presenting a style I would associate with a ‘saturday work shop in writing with dads’ (I donno, some community, novice thing). Redefining or inattentiveness, it doesn’t really matter, lets all hope that she realizes it’s a mistake before it’s too late.