Writing and Other Afflictions

"If it was easy, everyone would do it." –Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own"

Review: Willful Creatures

Review: Willful Creatures: stories, by Aimee Bender
8/10, An enjoyable and well-crafted collection of fabulist stories

Aimme Bender gains the dubious distinction of being the first author to be reviewed twice in this blog. I very much enjoyed An Invisible Sign Of My Own, and when I had the chance to pick up this collection of her stories, signed, I grabbed it. I’d already read “The Leading Man” and “Deathwatch” in our fabulist workshop, stories about a boy born with keys for fingers and ten men told they have two weeks to live, and their different reactions to it. Among the other memorable stories in “Willful Creatures” are a story about a man who buys a little man as a pet, two girls whose friendship dies in a record shop, a writer told by God to stop writing, and a mysterious double murder illuminated by a set of salt and pepper shakers.

Bender’s stories move fluidly and enjoyably through their own realities, somewhat askew from the one we’re all familiar with. The boy with keys for fingers searches for the doors his fingers unlocks. The little man bought as a pet belongs to a whole world of little people that begins to fascinate his owner. The worlds are more or less fabulist, depending on the story; sometimes Bender is content just to play with language, and she’s good at that, too.

The stories are a pleasure to read, if only for the language, but Bender’s imagination makes them a delight to experience as well. Sometimes the allusions are clear, as in “Jinx,” the story about the two girls in the record shop. Sometimes it seems like she is just letting her imagination roam free. Either way, it’s a beautiful, strange book that I was sad to get to the end of.


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