About this Item
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Title: THE GIRL IN THE FLAMMABLE SKIRT
Publisher: Doubleday., NY:
Publication Date: 1998
Edition: 1st edition
About this title
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 Bender'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. From the first line of each tale she lets us know she is telling a story, but the moral is never quite what we expect. Bender's prose is glorious: musical and colloquial, inimitable and heartrending.
Here are stories of men and women whose lives are shaped--and sometimes twisted--by the power of extraordinary desires, erotic and otherwise. The Girl in the Flammable Skirt is the debut of a major American writer.
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
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