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The Girl in the Flammable Skirt

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  7,376 ratings  ·  778 reviews
Bold, sexy, and daring, these stories portray a world twisted on its axis, an unconventional place that resembles nothing so much as real life, in all its grotesque, beautiful glory. Bender's prose is glorious, musical, and colloquial, an anthology of the bizarre. In 'The Rememberer', a man undergoes reverse evolution -- from man to ape to salamander -- at which point a fr ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published August 17th 1999 by Anchor (first published July 13th 1998)
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Average rating 3.88  · 
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 ·  7,376 ratings  ·  778 reviews

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Jul 23, 2008 rated it it was ok
There's no doubt that Aimee Bender has a vivid imagination and a penchant for the strange. Unfortunately, for me that is simply not enough to make for a memorable, satisfying read. I came away from this collection with an overwhelming feeling of disappointment.

Sure, the writing is fine and it even sparkles on occasion. There are enough strange things happening to catch anyone's interest, at least momentarily. The problem is a lack of depth. Every single story felt superficial to me, as if it was
Jun 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
How many times has this happened to you?

You're reading a novel about a single mother struggling to raise two kids in a backwoods town in Kentucky and you flip to the author info on the dust jacket...only to discover that the writer is a single mother raising two kids in a small town in Kentucky, and you say to yourself (or the person trying to sleep next to you), "HOW IS THIS EVEN FICTION?"

Well, that won't happen when you're reading THIS book. Unless Ms. Bender is the weirdest person who ever li
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
Jan 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book is a perfect example of how judging a book by its cover can be problematic. Had I never gathered non-cover-related compelling reasons that I might like this book I may've never picked it up, based on that quick, cliche judgment of the book binding's face. The cover looks, hmm, what's the word, twee. Cutesy. Quirky. Etc. Not exactly the kind of thing I like to read. But its contents, while being whimsical to some degree, are much more richly textured with moods than mere variations of q ...more
Sep 12, 2007 rated it it was ok
How funny that I should have just read the essay "A Reader's Manifesto", by B. R. Myers, when I picked up this book. In the essay (available at for now) Myers skewers various superstars of "literary fiction"--Cormac McCarthy, Rick Moody, David Guterson, and others--for turning out poorly-written books that are all flash and no substance. The brilliantly bizarre set pieces here, unfortunately, suffer from the same problem. Bender is all about the good sent ...more
Aimee Bender's debut collection of stories is comprised of the sort of fiction which excels in theory, but not in practice. As advertised on the back cover, these stories are supposed to be twisted, unconventional and grotesque - but are they?

The first story in The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, The Rememberer, is the most successful: it's about a woman whose partner is experiencing reverse evolution. From a man he slowly morphs first into an ape, and then into another lower form of life, a sea tu
Aug 24, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fiction
Short stories aren't really my thing. I also kind of felt these were lacking in substance a bit, and felt weird for the sake of it. ...more
Mar 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: phenomenal, read-2007
All's I am saying is, if you do not love Aimee Bender yet, get this book, read Skinless, Fell This Girl, The Healer, and The Ring. If you still don't love her after that, I'm not really sure we can be friends anymore. ...more
Nadine Larter
Mar 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Have I mentioned that I love Aimee Bender yet? I wonder: If I start experimenting with drugs would I be able to come up with this sort of writing? That would be great. Pity I can't afford drugs. Silly drugs, I mean, of course. Like mushrooms or whatever it is that makes things look a little brighter and sparklier. I'm giving this book a 5 because I think that being the type of person who writes these sort of weird and confusing-for-most-people stories is kind of important. Year ago when I read T ...more
Jan 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Introduced to Aimee Bender by "This American Life". Master of intriguing short stories that connect the reader to the characters. I feel the need to read all of Aimee's stuff just to make sure I am not missing some sort of amazing feeling I have not felt before.

The nameless "finding guy" made me cry:

"He lay in bed that night with the trees from other places rustling, and he could feel their confusion. No snow here. Not a lot of rain. Where am I? What is wrong with this dirt? Crossing his hands
Shweta Padma Das
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5. Imaginative. Heavy on personification. Preferred the stories in the first section over the latter two - more state of mind stories.
Vincent Scarpa
May 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
I first read this collection in high school, loved it despite not really 'getting' any of it, and over the past few years would crack it open every now and then to read the first two stories—"The Remember," and "Call My Name." "The Rememberer," because I'm continually moved by that story's narrator; her grace and her grief. And "Call My Name," because I'm always amazed at the way Bender can get a reader [specifically, me] to sympathize with characters who lack any redeeming qualities whatsoever. ...more
Ben Loory
Oct 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
i've read aimee bender stories before but never a whole book at once. i think to be honest i like them better spaced out. but that's my fault, i suppose, and not hers. not like she's got a gun to my head.

anyway, bender writes short, perfectly structured surreal first-person stories. well, mostly first person. sometimes third. there's a story about a man who wakes up with a hole going directly through his stomach, and then his wife becomes pregnant and gives birth to her own mother. but it's firs
Irina Elena
This one is considerably bleaker than The Color Master, but still has that dreamy, dark fairy tale vibe that drew me in so effectively in that collection.

The reason why it didn't work so well for me is the fact that the symbolism is much more heavy-handed and clumsy, and the slight absurdity of magical realism feels less natural and smoothly blended in than it does in Aimee Bender's later work.

In short, it's an extremely engaging and quite unsettling little treat, written with Bender's usual sup
Apr 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
as always... top notch

Merged review:

"Books are the mirrors of the soul."
Virginia Woolf, Between the Acts

take Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales by Yoko Ogawa, especially the writing style and slight drips of metaphysicalness, spirituality, and imagery, slather it with Haruki Murakami; but don't over do it. Add a dash of Karen Russell (when she is on her game).... and you have this book.

these stories, while completely, definitely grounded in their ownness, are somehow linked. The linking is personal

Jason Jordan
Mar 10, 2008 rated it liked it
The first time I read this, I gave it four stars. Recently I had to reread it for a fiction class, and after poring over it a second time, I have no choice but to lower the score to a three. Initially, I think I was enchanted with Bender's work due to her unique plots and characters. Following my second run through, I can't say that there were many characters I liked, and the characters I did like usually weren't the protagonists. ...more
An heiress secretly auditioning men; a wife whose husband returns from the war zone with no lips; a woman who gives birth to her mother; a mermaid going to high school; two mutant girls – one with an ice hand dripping healing water, and the other with a fire hand lighting cigarettes after school hours; an orphan with a knack for finding lost things; an old couple who dreamt the same dreams. And life in between.

This short story collection was sold to me as a gallery of interesting women and some
Dec 10, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed
This is the first book in a while which I've actually felt some hatred towards. I began to cringe every time I picked it up, but I hate to not finish a book (especially one this small; surely I can power through it I kept telling myself). So thank god that's done. Several of the stories had pretty much the exact same type of female protagonist - vain, superficial, vapid, and horny. It started to bother me that I was essentially reading about the same stupid bitch in completely different plot lin ...more
Jun 17, 2008 marked it as left-unfinished
Recommended to Yulia by: Konstantin Steshenko
Shelves: short-stories
It was suggested she was a female Etgar Keret, but Keret is far more artful and thoughtful in his shorts. Whereas I have the sense he's a melancholy and thoughtful man who hides his sensitivity with a cuddly veneer, I feel Bender is a Keret-wannabe who hides her lack of insight and wisdom with her cute, "imaginative" story lines. ...more
Dec 11, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: one-star
Strange stories, not interested in any.
May 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was marvelous. Each and every story surprised me somehow. I think my favorite one was "The Healer"; a lot of the images in this collection will stick with me for a long time. ...more
Dec 17, 2015 rated it liked it
After going through the first three short stories I wrote one word on my journal: peculiar. Now, after having read every single one of them, I find myself going back to it. I honestly believe peculiar fits this collection of short stories like a glove.

I must confess that at first the what the hell am I reading line crossed my mind. The characters were so beyond everything that I simply couldn't bond, couldn't understand. I was growing slightly frustrated. What was the point of reading these? Sim
The thing is, she is a wonderfully whimsical writer, but it is a little more weird than I like. There were barely any stories in this collection that did not fall into the category of, well, magical but not realism really at all... These were Call My Name (Random Guy refuses to fall for a hot, naked girl, going so far as to cut her dress from her, yet still proceeding to watching a game show in nonchalance), Loser (An orphan has a talent for locating lost items), & The Healer (Fire & Ice Powers ...more
Charlotte Jones
Aimee Bender is very well known in the magical realism world, especially for her novel The Particular Sadness of the Lemon Cake. This is my first experience with her work but it definitely won't be my last. There are sixteen stories in under 200 pages so each one is very short but I think that the length of the stories were judged perfectly. None of the stories felt like they were two slow and each one felt distinct and memorable, though some definitely more than others.

Short story collections a
Jun 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
While I admire Bender's imagination and bold writing style, I couldn't help feeling like many of these stories were "thin." Each had an alluring premise, peculiar characters and events, but were written in such a way that they all felt like drafts to me that had never been fully fleshed out, developed, and revised. My favorite stories in this collection are the ones that felt the most complete to me and all happen to be in the third and last section: "The Healer," "The Loser," and "The Ring." ...more
Nov 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book tries to put the cart before the horse. In an effort to be an artist (and I suspect to impress her writer's group peers) she has made some sparkly that lacks substance. A couple stories are just plain boring and/or bad but some had real promise. An interesting an idea, an opportunity to dig into a character - but they then fall flat. Was the idea to just wow the reader with strange set-ups?

At least it was a fast read. Nothing to see - move along, folks!
Thinking Chimp
Dec 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
Some interesting concepts, but mostly pointless stories. Equivalent to conceptual art, but in written form, which may be highly creative in its interpretation within the philanthropists' clique, meaningless and unskilled to the working class. No speech marks, which may also be a new concept, but is extremely irritating. All this should have been countered by some beautifully shaped words, but it wasn't. I'd rather pick at grass on a cold day. ...more
Dec 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fabulists/surrealists
When I came home from school for lunch my father was wearing a backpack made of stone.
Take that off, I told him, that's far too heavy for you.
So he gave it to me.
--from "The Girl in the Flammable Skirt"
Jul 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: short-stories
Though there are a few good stories here, they are few and far between. Most pieces read more like highly buffed exercises that never acquire any emotional depth. The few good ones are worth a look, but take it out of the library . . .

Nov 30, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Aimee Bender as always has such a lyrical and delicious quality to her prose. I truly enjoyed some of these stories, "Loser" and "The Bowl" especially, but on the whole I didn't love the topics and pacing of many of these stories. I personally think The Color Master is far more to my liking. ...more
Leila Giles
Feb 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
When I read Aimee Bender, I feel like I'm swimming, and things are floating by. ...more
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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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