Well I haven't done much on the reading and blogging front lately, but I have at least finished two really fantastic books. September saw a new all time low for me finishing just ONE book and it was a pretty short one too. September this year was a year that I would be more than happy to just completely forget...except for this book because I loved it. That book is Aimee Bender's new short story collection, The Color Master.
She's officially become a favorite writer of mine. I deemed her a favorite writer after reading The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, but after reading this, my third book of hers, I'm ready to cement that opinion. I don't think I ever TRULY understood the term magical realism until reading this book. I always understood the concept, but Bender is such a master of the genre. After reading her story, "Tiger Mending," in this collection, it truly clicked for me though. That story will always be a favorite of mine as it resonated with me so well.
It's a short story, and therefore I can't tell you much about it, aside from the fact that it's about people unhappy with where they are in their lives, yet complacent and unwilling to do much to change that fact and hope that someone else may change it for them or rescue them when it all falls apart. Yep...that's been me with my work situation at times and this past month that all came to a rather alarming head. But if you read this story at a very surface level, you don't see that message at all. In fact, you get a very bizarre, WTF type story.
What I've learned from Bender about magical realism is that the "why" of the fantasy or magical elements in a story of magical realism don't really matter all that much. It's not important why those things happen all the time....that's not the central theme. Rather, it's used to serve another purpose...to tell a bigger story and to illustrate a point. And god, does she do this perfectly. Another fantastic example of this is her story "Americca" where a family with very little means begins to have things turn up in their house out of nowhere. It's not important where these things are coming from but rather how the fact that these things are showing up affect the characters.
I could go on and on about each and every story in this collection as I truly loved them all....something I don't think I can say about a short story collection since Gaiman's last collection, Fragile Things. READ IT!!
The other book that I read didn't take quite a month to read, it took an hour. Today. I finally opened up Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman and OMG what a fun and fantastic book it was! I've had it since release day, but I didn't feel any urgency to read it. I thought, "oh it's one of his children's books...it'll be fun, but nothing I need to read absolutely immediately." And then today I decided to pick it up and was reminded "oh right...it's Neil Gaiman...everything he writes is amazing." Because it is.
It's about a father who's left in charge of his son and daughter while his wife goes away for a few days for work who happens to forget to buy milk for his children's cereal! (and his tea). He goes off to the store on the corner to buy the milk and seems to be gone for quite awhile but returns eventually with quite a story to tell about why it took him so long to get the milk. Said story involves aliens planning to redecorate the planet, sassy pirates, flying stegosauruses and much much more. And all with so much wit and humor and heart that no one but Gaiman could have written it.
It's accompanied with wonderful illustrations by Skottie Young too, who I wasn't familiar with prior to reading this, but I'm looking forward to finding more of his work. They complimented the story oh so perfectly! I believe that this book sadly ends the year of tons of Gaiman releases :( Though who knows what other treasures we have in store for us!
Hopefully I'll be back in the swing of things soon and it won't be two months in between book reviews any more. I'm getting there....slowly but surely.