I went into reading this book without much premise on what it’s about. I received it as a part of my Capsule Books box hoping to read something that will nestle me into my chair and take me on a grand adventure. Instead, I read a collection of short stories that all shared one strange element or another, but ultimately played into the idea of loving someone for who they are. Let’s get right into it.
Here’s some more about the collection
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.
The book starts with the story about a woman who’s lover is devolving. You think that this was some sort of Benjamin Button thing, but what you’re seeing is a man who is now an ape and progressing back towards that single-celled organism everyone says we’re evolved from. While you’re reading this woman trying to cope with a man who is an ape, you also hear about her struggle to love someone like this. What do you do when something unfortunate happens to your lover? I’m pretty sure you would understand the character’s POV in this case.
This is what you come across while reading The Girl in the Flammable Skirt; stories that don’t quite make sense but deep down you understand where the characters are coming from. It was like reading Murakami with a little performance by Miranda July with the voice of Ernest Hemingway.
And this is the central theme of all the stories you read here. Each one has some quirk about it. It can be about a woman trying to fall back in love with her husband after he returns from war without his lips. It could be a story about a man who develops a hole in his torso. It could be the woman who falls in love with a thief and steals a ruby ring that turns the ocean red. These quirks are little, but remind me so strongly of Murakami; the magical realism of something so inane yet so impactful on the characters’ lives. It’s almost inconsequential how it shows up, but it impacts them the most throughout the story.
But overall, I wasn’t that big of a fan of this story. It was fun and interesting to see the different ways these characters confront certain situations, but I kind of shrug my shoulders at this. It was a fun read, but not one of my top favorites and kind of meh. I wish I was so enamored by it, but perhaps I’m the wrong person to read this. I’ve been reading magical realism for a while and this book was written in the 90s probably during a time when this kind of writing was considered more poetic than anything else. Perhaps you’ll like it. I’m not sure, but for me it was okay. Good stories. Good times. Like the roar of a fireplace; warm, relaxing, and ultimately extinguishable.
- Paperback: 192 pages
- Publisher: Vintage/Anchor Books
- Rating: 3/5 stars
- Buy The Girl With the Flammable Skirt on Amazon
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2 thoughts on “The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender”
I love that it is under 200 pages; makes for a great read when I need a break from other fare. Thanks so much for sharing this review, Simone!
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It’s an interesting read! It reminds me of the 90s which were kind of obscure and different. I’d give it a go!