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Willful Creatures

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  4,832 ratings  ·  521 reviews
"Contemporary fairy tales, cushioned by goofy humor and a deep tenderness for her characters, that aren't always as dark or as sinister as they initially appear." --The New York Times Book Review
Aimee Bender s Willful Creatures conjures a fantastical world in which authentic love blooms. This is a place where a boy with keys for fingers is a hero, a woman's children are p
Paperback, 208 pages
Published August 8th 2006 by Anchor Books (first published August 16th 2005)
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Average rating 3.99  · 
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 ·  4,832 ratings  ·  521 reviews

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Nandakishore Varma
“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”

― Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

In an interview with Gabriel Garcia Marquez I read way back in the late eighties, I remember the author saying that this one sentence started him on the road to literature. Until then, he had not known "people were allowed to write like this"!

This is what sets literature apart from all other arts - infinite freedom. The medium lets one create what
Laura Leaney
Nov 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Laura by: Book club
Reading Aimee Bender is like waking up one morning to find yourself swimming inside a terracotta bowl of guacamole and accepting it. You pull yourself out of the bowl, hoisting yourself over the lip, towel off and head to work. Maybe you catch yourself longing for the green smoothness of the morning as you sit through a meeting. Wondering if it will happen again. It does. Only the next morning you are fished out by a spoon. Weird.

My favorite stories here are "The End of the Line," "Motherfucker
May 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Re-read 14/5/19 4.5 stars

Still a favourite short story collection of mine but there might be one or two stories that weren’t as good as the others. My favourites are definitely Off, The Meeting, Ironhead, Fruit and Nuts and The Case of the Salt and Pepper Shakers.

If you’re feeling in an experimental mood and want to try some surrealist fiction, please check out this collection.
Stop what you're reading and pick up this treasure of a book NOW!

Willful Creatures was given to me as a g
Mar 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
He stood with the starlet for a while and told her he was a graduate student at the school for emotional ventriloquists. She raised one carefully shaped eyebrow. "No," he said, "it's true." She laughed. "No," he said, "it's true. You throw your emotions on other people in the room," he explained, "and see what they do then."

"So what do they do?" she asked, keeping that perfect eyebrow halfway up her forehead.

"It depends," he sighed. "Sometimes they lob them right back at you."

Once again, Aimee B
I'm not sure I can star-rate books of short fiction. Some of these stories (e.g., "Off") I loved so much that I nearly cried when I read them, while others (e.g., "Fruit and Words") I hated to the point of becoming physically ill. In her dart-throwing at axes mapping "Whimsical Quirk" and "Nihilistic Depravity," Bender does on occasion hit some sublime points. I'd read "Off" in an anthology, and it was like doing some weird new exercise that doesn't feel all that special at the time, but the nex ...more
Nadine Larter
Mar 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is the second time I've read this book and I think maybe this time I enjoyed it even more. I know when you have a library of 700+ unread books it's silly to go back to something you've already experienced but The Colour Master kind of got me writing again and so it seemed only natural to turn  back and  revisit the other quirks of Aimee Bender. The richness of the bizarre in these books just soothes my soul. I feel massively influenced by Aimee's writing, which I suppose is weird. If you re ...more
Jun 29, 2013 rated it really liked it

many, apparently coffee induced claps

A solid contribution to an otherwise brilliant and unparallelled collection of writing. I can't in any simple words express how much I enjoy this author. These short stories may not hold up against the glory of her previous work, but they come pretty darn close.

Each is a combination of dark, but also has elements of hope, self discovery, and a lot of potential for our main characters. These characters evolve, recognizing their own flaws, and accomplish some
Sep 05, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't even mean to start reading this collection. I'd been taking my time between books by reading various lit mags, and was so taken by Bender's story in an old issue of Tin House that I picked up her book. It had been on my shelf for over a year, and suddenly I was reading story after story--4 or so at a time. They are all swift reads, the prose simple and lovely, all of them strange: a boy has keys for hands, a woman raises potatoes as her children, a motherfucker (literally, he fucks moth ...more
Ksenia Anske
Jun 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
From pumpkin-heads to men-pets to a key-fingered boy, from potato-children to an evil mango craving to doctors giving wrong death dates to their patients, this little collection of surreal, metaphorical stories will have you scream in horror for more. I swallowed it, wishing it never stopped. But then it did. Damn. If you love my dark writing, you will love this with a lusty, death-craving love. Yes, there is such a thing in literature. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?
Nov 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
A collection of really unique stories told by an extremely magical writing style. I'm excited to read more by this author.
Larry Bassett
Nov 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am on a short story streak. Three in a row. This book published in 2005 was “Discarded from Pima County Library System” for some reason in 2006. I wonder why?
Ten men go to ten doctors. All the doctors tell all the men that they only have two weeks left to live. Five men cry. Three men rage. One man smiles. The last man is silent, meditative. Okay, he says. He has no reaction. The raging men, upon meeting in the lobby, don’t know what to do with the man of no reaction. They fall upon him and k
Nik Perring
Sep 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I Don't Do Reviews.

It's true. I don't. But I do like to mention books I've enjoyed, and I've not enjoyed anything more than Willful Creatures, by Aimee Bender in a long time.

So where to start? Well, the book's a collection of short stories, fifteen in all. And they're fantastic and I mean, REALLY fantastic. I ordered the book from my library after reading a review of it in The Short Review. The first story grabbed my attention, it was like being grabbed by the throat, to tell the truth. And afte
May 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sam
Recommended to Fox by: Sasha
Sasha leant me this book with a cursory order to read it when I had the time. It took me quite a while to get to it, but I did, and I'm quite glad of that, too. I've not read a collection of short stories in a while, and when it comes to short stories, I can be rather particular. I grew up on a fair bit of Ray Bradbury and Shirley Jackson with some Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, and Stephen King mixed in.

Well. Aimee Bender did not disappoint.

This isn't to say that her writing is automatically
Krok Zero
Feb 26, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: winter-08-to-09
I really want to like Aimee Bender...but based on this collection I think she's overhyped. For one thing, all the press about Bender as a fantasist or magical-realism practitioner is GROSSLY overstated. Most of the stories in here are straight-up realistic, and only a few are outright fantastical. Not that there's anything wrong with that—I'm just saying there's some false advertising going on.

The stories are all slightly on the quirky side but most of them are so wispy and minor-key that they d
Much as it usually is with me, this collection was a mixed bag tending more towards the negative than otherwise. Some, however, are quite heartfelt, both happily and not: "End of the Line", "Dearth", and "The Leading Man" are the best of the bunch, with "Hymn"and (view spoiler) (yes, that's the actual title) in second tier, the rest being a bit too stolid and/or melodramatic in the suburban nuclear WASP family or Gaiman sense to appeal much. At its best, it reminde ...more
Jul 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Willful Creatures Stories by Aimee Bender
New York: Doubleday & Company
$22.95 – 208 pages

The man went to the pet store to buy himself a little man to keep him company. The pet store was full of dogs with splotches and shy cats coy and the friendly people got dogs and the independent people got cats and this man looked around until in the back he found a cage inside of which was a miniature sofa and tiny TV and one small attractive brown-haired man wearing a tweed suit. He looked at the price tag.
Sep 16, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: little men, little women, and steel-headed creatures
Shelves: fantasy
"What's interesting in a story isn't the situation," said Amy Hempel, quoting her instructor at Columbia, Gordon Lish, "it's the people in it and how they respond to it."

So with Bender. Of course the cover has a picture of a little man in a cage - that's what happens when the little men hunters capture a little man and sell him to a big man. Big whup. The story comes in when we see how the big man deals with his new power, and how the little people have prepared for such abuses.

Bender writes in
This is my first 5 star rating of 2015 and I'm not going to write a review on it. I don't even know how. Something about this book, these stories, kind of got to me. They just made sense to me in ways I can't explain. I don't know what I expected from this book but it sure wasn't any of this:

It is these empty spaces you have to watch out for, as they flood up with feeling before you even realize what's happened; before you find yourself, at the base of her spine, different.

Listen. Look. Desire
Jun 06, 2011 rated it liked it
Weird stuff... fortunately, I like weird stuff. I don't know that I would recommend this collection of short stories to anyone I know, but out there somewhere is someone with a twisted outlook on the world, who appreciates dark humor and allegorical glances into the grey areas of human nature; and that person is the one who can appreciate these surreal portraits. Bender's brand of magical realism is really pushed to the boundaries - bordering on fantasy much more so than on reality... making som ...more
Mar 13, 2008 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh, Aimee Bender you have wooed me with your wily words. I savored the little delectables like, “Goodbye’ we said to each other, and the kiss was an old dead sock.” And “It was like the whole afternoon had got a haircut that was too short.” She peppered such strange juxtapositions throughout all the stories which were themselves like reading Dali painting—close to reality but wonderfully distorted. There seemed to be a lot of kissing in her stories, magical realism and then a few plain stories, ...more
What a bizzare yet beautiful short stories. Every story felt so magical. My favorite is the Ironhead about a boy with head as an iron, who born in the middle of pumpkinheads family. Also Dearth, the story about a woman who has potatoes as her babies. It was hard for me to find the true meanings for some stories which too surealist, but since it wrote so beautiful, I have nothing to complaint.
Jan Reynolds
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My first book of hers, I chose it at the library partially because of the name and cover. After the first story I wasn't sure what to make of it. But after two or three I realized I loved this collection! I would highly recommend it. And I enjoyed taking my time between stories and letting them sink in a little. Odd enchanting stories of willfulness and resistance to sorrow and circumstance. " My genes, my love, are rubber bands and rope; make yourself a structure you can live inside."
First Second Books
I love the short story in this where the pumpkin-headed parents give birth to a kid who has an iron for a head. Not just for the crazy-wonderful illogic of the premise – as I read it, I kept visualizing Scott Campbell illustrations for everything!
Feb 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
I love the jolt of these stories! On the whole, I am not a fan of fantasy and strongly prefer narratives set in reality. Most of these stories contain an unreal element, like a tiny man you can fit in a cage, or a community where people's heads resemble pumpkins. It still shocks me how a story with surreal elements can speak truth, and how both the images and the themes really stay with you. The story of the small man ("End of the Line" depicted on the cover) is a study on human cruelty I won't ...more
Mark Cooper
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
Favorite Stories: The Leading Man, End of the Line
Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was ok
I liked this one less as it went on. A lot of the stories had very similar themes and it felt repetitive after a while.
Apr 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Just as good as everything by Bender!! A short story collection that did not disappoint. I read this over a long period of time, so I can’t remember my favorite story, but they were all winners in my book.
Madelyn Grace
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is my second work of Aimee Bender, I adored The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. I figured since I enjoyed that much I would give one a try and I ate it up. Finished it in one sitting!

Willful Creatures is one of the books that you read that will stick with you, like a cough in your lungs that you will always have. Ranging from the bizarre, to tragically heartbreaking. I haven't found many others that I feel that they wrote a book just for me, this one is it. Bender spoke to my dreams and
I’ve been reading philosophy for a couple of years now. Can’t swallow it down. Maybe I’ve been skimming through the wrong genre. Or perhaps I’ve touched the wrong philosophy. How does one define philosophy by the way? Mainly a study or creation of theories about basic things. I do agree!
For example what’s life’s philosophy? I’m not sure. I think dying. We all live to die anyway. Or maybe that’s the philosophy of pessimism. What’s the philosophy of love? Sacrifice, hands down. We all give up thin
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Aimee Bender is the author of the novel An Invisible Sign of My Own and of the collections The Girl in the Flammable Skirt and Willful Creatures. Her work has been widely anthologized and has been translated into ten languages. She lives in Los Angeles.

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“My genes, my love, are rubber bands and rope - make yourself a structure you can live inside.” 750 likes
“I am the drying meadow; you the unspoken apology; he is the fluctuating distance between mother and son; she is the first gesture that creates a quiet that is full enough to make the baby sleep.

My genes, my love, are rubber bands and rope; make yourself a structure you can live inside.

More quotes…