Monday, June 2, 2014

The Color Master: Stories, by Aimee Bender

Aimee Bender is reportedly a master of the short story form. Unfortunately, I am not a master short story reader. In fact, the stories in The Color Master provoke the "Hunh?" reaction, followed by brief concern that I am not very bright. A number of reviewers described the story as "modern fairy tales," and I can understand the comparison, without understanding the stories. For example, in "Appleless," a girl does not like apples--too mushy, cheeky, or bloomed, she says. So everyone else decides to eat only apples. When the girl returns, the entire group has some kind of ecstatic experience; soon, all the apples are gone. As I said, "Hunh?"

I did enjoy a few of the stories. In "Lemonade," Bender beautifully captures a teenager's angst at the mall when her friend is drawn away by her boyfriend and one of the "mean" girls from their school. "Wordkeepers" is about the loss of vocabulary the narrator posits may be caused by too much texting. The title story definitely fits the description of modern fairy tale but I almost understand it (the last line threw me off) and the idea of mixing colors in the way described in the story is both magical and entrancing.

If you like the surreal and opaque, you may well enjoy The Color Master. If you are more appreciative of the realistic and straightforward, you may want to skip this collection.

Favorite passages:
That's the thing with handmade items. They still have the person's mark on them, and when you hold them, you feel less alone.

The phone is about the same size as a cigarette pack. It's no surprise to me that the traditional cigarette lighter in many cars has turned into the space we use to recharge our phones. They are kin. The phone, like the cigarette, lets the texter/former smoker drop out of any social interaction for a second to get a break and make a little love to the beautiful object. We need something, people. We can't live propless.

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