Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Color Master - Aimee Bender

The Color Master: StoriesLike most story collections, The Color Master varies wildly in quality from one story to another.  The book is loosely divided into parts, which start out more "realistic" and get more "fantastic" as the book goes on, though all of them blend elements of reality and fantasy, whether it's a traditional swords-and-sorcery type of fantasy or a more modern sexual type of fantasy, or just an element of surrealism.  The stories cover everything from a woman convincing two of her male friends to have sex with each other to a man who thinks he's a Nazi but isn't to more fairytale-like stories including ogres and dresses the color of the moon.

That last one, the story with the dress the color of the moon, is the source of the book's title.  "The Color Master" was definitely one of the strongest stories in the book, telling the tale of the people who made the famous dresses of the fairytale "Donkeyskin."  It captures doubt, fear, anger, and grief while mixing in a somewhat comic, disorganized work environment.

Some of the stories, on the other hand, just didn't make much sense to me.  I wasn't sure what to think of "Appleless," the first story in the collection, which at first appears to be about a girl who doesn't like apples but might actually be about murder or rape or both; I'm not entirely sure.  This not-being-sure-what-to-think spanned much of the book for me.  In most of the stories, I felt like I was just missing the point, which left an unpleasant feeling of disappointment and confusion--not what I'm looking for out of pleasure reading.  Maybe I'm just not cut out for the majority of Bender's short stories.  Still, if surrealism is something you're interested in, this would probably be a good read.  If you're not very good at interpreting tons of layers of narrative though (like I'm apparently not) this might not be the book for you.

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