Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bathing with Aimee Bender

Knowing what a luxury a tub of clean, hot water is, a bath really is a guilty pleasure.  But tonight it felt necessary to relax and sleep — and blog.

I took Aimee Bender's Willful Creatures in with me.  She is a genius of magical realism.  Here are a few passages for you, so you'll go buy her books, and get in line with me for her new book coming out in June: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.

Aimee was at a literary pub crawl I attended a few months ago, and, explaining she couldn't often read this short story at regular book store readings, she shared "Motherfucker" with us.

"I fuck mothers," he said to anyone who asked him. "And I do it well," he added. ...

He never liked any of them for longer than one or two times. Or, he liked them but not enough to keep calling.  I love all women, he told himself. He liked to try on hats in stores.


One afternoon, he was at a fancy Bel Air party on a damp lawn talking to some damp and fancy people.  ... The motherfucker wandered across the lawn to the starlet, famous for her latest few films, wearing the red straw hat and matching red dress, the one watching her four-year-old play on the lawn chairs, the one whose husband had left her for a man, or so said the newspapers.  Everyone else was afraid to talk to her. ...


The motherfucker went home and rented one of her latest movies and watched it closely, and even though it was a comedy, he looked at the smile on her face and decided she was possibly the saddest person he had ever met or pursued. ...

He stepped closer. For some reason, his hands were shaking.  Using his finger as a pointer, he drew an invisible line around her. He said 'Listen. Look. Desire is a house.  Desire needs closed space. Desire runs out of doors or window, or slats or pinpricks, it can't fit under the sky, too large. Close the doors. Close the windows. As soon as you laugh from nerves or make a joke or say something just to say something or get all involved with the bushes, then you blow open a window in your house of desire and it can't heat up as well. Cold draft comes in. ...

He didn't call her that day.  He didn't call her the next day.  She realized she did not have his phone number, could not tell him that she had to go on location to shoot the movie about people with problems but would miss him.  During her movie the director asked her to smile but she said no. "This movie," she said, "I am going to stay in my house."
On the screen, she was so luminous in her seriousness, she made the whole cinema fill with tension, so much so that every cinemagoer went home charged up like an electrical storm, fingers in sockets, so much so that she got nominated for seven awards. The motherfucker, who never called again, watched her win from the quiet of his small bedroom.  She was wearing a dress the color of the sky before it rains and had become, suddenly, beautiful. She had been something  else before, but now she was something else from that. She thanked her parents most of all, her father the train conductor, her mother who rode the trains back and forth across the country to be with him. The motherfucker held his own body close. His apartment was very plain. 'This is the house of your desire,' he whispered to himself, looking at the small walls behind him, and when he closed his eyes, the torrent of longing waiting inside was so thick he thought he might drown in it. 

~ Excerpt from "Motherfucker"

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