Monday, February 05, 2007

Four down, forty-eight to go.

Willful Creatures
by Aimee Bender

I was quite the fan of Aimee Bender's first collection of short stories, The Girl With The Flammable Skirt, so I was certainly looking forward to taking in this second collection of her short prose. She writes in a certain magically realistic style that I find fun and moving at the same time. She displays a studied economy in her words choices with each sentence structured to wring the maximum amount out of its various parts. That sounds, clichéd, I know, but this is one of those few time I think that description is truly fitting.

For instance one of the stories in the collection, The Meeting, is concerned with a male narrator who cannot stop finding reasons he should not be attracted to the woman that he is, in fact, attracted to. A simple truth is uncovered as they sit in a darkening room, sipping wine after the first time they make love, and Bender describes it perfectly.

He let his hand trace each of her vertebrae and she did not say, That tickles, stop, like he thought she might. She just looked out the muted curtain and her hair swished at an angle. He moved his fingers down her whole spine, one by one, by one, and during the time it took to do that, his brain remained absolutely quiet.

It is these empty spaces you have to watch out for, as they flood up with feeling before you even realize what's happened; before you find yourself, at the base of her spine, different.

How lovely is that? Doesn't that just make you want to to run out and read more right away? I remember reading that particular segment and appreciating the fact that I had encountered an author that seemed to appreciate the importance of communicating our own inner experiences to her audience in a way that is both age-old and brand-new.

This isn't to say I found the book absolutely perfect. Some of the later stories ended up being more abstract and less effective. I suspect Bender is trying to make the same points, and she may well believe that she is doing so as beautifully and as directly as she has throughout the first three-quarters of the book, but the last few tales just don't carry the same punch.

As a whole, though, I wish there were more writers like Bender working today. She does a wonderful job of producing emotionally charged writing while having enough sense to make the journey fun, and exciting, and engaging for the reader.


Obligatory Super Bowl mention.

Sorry to all of my friends who are Bears fans. Even Photogal and I felt a thrill of a rush when that dude from the Bears returned the opening kick-off for a 92-yard touchdown. So, while I'm glad I no longer have to hear 27 / 7 football coverage I agree it would have been nice to be the home of this year's Super Bowl champs. But it was not to be.

However, how cute was the "faux-matian" in that Budweiser commercial? (Props musty go to David Letterman and Oprah for the "oh no they didn't!" double-take of the evening.)

And Prince? While he was a trooper to perform in the pouring rain, and I can't fault his song selection one iota, and I loved the fact he actually tried to put on a concert instead of a mindless soundtrack for a bunch of pyrothechnics, I have one major question for CBS; What was up with the sound? On television all you could hear was Prince's vocals, his guitar, and his drum player's cymbals. Every once in a while a synth line would squiggle through but other than that there was scant audio evidence that there was anyone else besides Prince on the stage!

Oh well, sound problems aside, he was still easily the best half-time show the Super Bowl has ever seen. Tony has been nice enough to put the whole thing up here in case you were watching the Puppy Bowl and missed it.


Oh no he didn't!

Biting. Acerbic. And oh so funny in a pitch-black way. (As always, click the image to enlarge for easier readability. Mom.)

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