The Color Master by Aimee Bender

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The Color Master
240 pages; Doubleday
In the lively pages of Aimee Bender's dazzlingly dreamlike new story collection, The Color Master, Asian tigers split their skins and are mended by specially trained seamstresses; a woman who is "ugly, by human standards," falls in love with a man-eating giant she meets in a tavern; and random gifts, including cans of lobster bisque, materialize out of thin air, perhaps delivered by ghosts. These fantastical elements season the soup of Bender's savory and sublime human sagas. Though we journey into the author's strange worlds without a map, her particular brand of magical realism is so deeply rooted in American middle-class life that even her most exotic landscapes feel as familiar and well-lit as the local mall. Her characters crave work or words or one another. In "The Devourings," the aforementioned giant accidentally consumes his own children. In the first story, "Appleless," a narrator observes: "I once knew a girl who wouldn't eat apples.... She didn't even like to look at them.... It's unsettling to meet people who don't eat apples." So many of Bender's sentences both settle and unsettle, and deserve to be read aloud for pure pleasure.
— Bonnie Jo Campbell