Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Thinking about books...

I just finished this book....and I have to say, it was pretty amazing. I am not a HUGE fan of the short story, though of course there are those certain authors that can make me eat those words. Alice Munro, for one, can suck you in and make you feel like you've just finished a novel in just a few pages. Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles sucked me in and drew me from one weird world to another in a short period of time. But overall, I kind of like the continuation of a full length novel. The feeling as I'm putting the book down, and the characters will still be there for me tomorrow evening...waiting for me to return to their world, so different from my own (or, in some cases, so similar to my own). That feeling of making friends, of wanting to slap them for doing something so stupid, so human, so real. These are hard things to bring into a short story, I think. Because you get to know them, start to care, and then the story is over, just like that. Time to move on to new characters, new challenges, new drama.

OK, back to Willful Creatures. I've been thinking about reading this book since January, when I finished another book by Aimee Bender, titled An Invisible Sign of My Own, which is NOT short stories, but was great. Willful Creatures is a book of very odd stories, very odd characters. For example, in one story, a man buys another, tiny tiny, man, and keeps him as a pet, in a birdcage (that's him in the picture, I'm assuming). Or the woman who had 7 potatoes in her pot that would not go away, and 4 of them ended up growing into her little potato children. Or the folks with the pumpkin heads who somehow gave birth to a baby with an iron head, steam and all. Here is an excerpt from The Case of the Salt and Pepper Shakers, a dual murder case, told from the point of view of the detective who is trying to solve the crime. The husband has murdered the wife (poison) and the wife has murdered the husband (stabbing), and they both lay down and died within a minute or two of each other.

Now, she could not have known she was poisoned when she knifed him, as he had chosen a poison that is silent and causes no suffering, and he had hidden the bottle somewhere very difficult to find, as we have not yet found it. In fact, their greatest difference was revealed through their choice of murder weapon, in that she wanted to make him suffer and be aware of her murderous inclinations, choosing the overt and physical technique, while he selected the secretive method, one of the few available where she would die without fully realizing what was happening. He perhaps was more ashamed of his loathing, and also he did not want her to feel pain. Their greatest similarity, however, was revealed in their choice of occasion, since each conceived of the exact month and moment of death fully independent of the other. Certainly that was something. And I imagine that as they lay on the carpet next to each other, one bleeding from the gut, the other foaming from the mouth, they saw something meaningful and linked in the eyes of the other. The nature of hate is as elusive as love's. I for one am just pleased they did not have children.
For me, the whole paragraph is well written, but that last sentence just did it for me. Much of her work is like that to me...I am reading along, thinking that in less capable hands, this story would come across as too clever, too precious. But in Bender's hands, in her mind and her words, it's just wonderful writing.

Oh...and, by the way, it just came out in paperback. :)

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