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The Girl in the Flammable Skirt: Stories (1998)
by Aimee Bender
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385492162, Paperback)In conventional fiction, war heroes return home minus an arm or a leg--or, to take Hemingway's worst-case scenario, the family jewels. In Aimee Bender's deeply unconventional collection, however, an even more suggestive body part goes AWOL: "Steve returned from the war without his lips." The army doctors have temporarily replaced them with a plastic disc, which impairs his speech. Luckily, this doesn't prevent him and his wife from engaging in some slightly surrealistic sexual maneuvers: "That night in bed, he grazed the disc over her raised nipples like a UFO and the plastic was cool on her skin. It felt like they were in college and toying with desk items as sexual objects."
That same combo--sex and off-kilter surrealism--provides Bender with her modus operandi. In "Call My Name," for example, a young heiress tails a stranger back to his apartment, gets her dress sliced off, and then consents to be trussed to a chair while he watches a TV documentary about Mozart. "Quiet Please" features a libidinous librarian who takes on all, uh, comers in the back room. Bender isn't, it should be said, simply a purveyor of French postcards. Her prose is exquisitely shaped, and its singsong rhythms suggest something out of a wised-up, whacked-out fairy tale. Indeed, if the Brothers Grimm had been a little more attuned to the pleasure principle, their fables might have boasted at least a family resemblance to Aimee Bender's. --James Marcus
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:58:08 -0400)
A grief-stricken librarian decides to have sex with every man who enters her library. A half-mad, unbearably beautiful heiress follows a strange man home, seeking total sexual abandon: He only wants to watch game shows. A woman falls in love with a hunchback; when his deformity turns out to be a prosthesis, she leaves him. A wife whose husband has just returned from the war struggles with the heartrending question: Can she still love a man who has no lips? Aimee Bendr's stories portray a world twisted on its axis, a place of unconvention that resembles nothing so much as real life, in all its grotesque, beautiful glory.
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