Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Color Master, by Aimee Bender. Doubleday, 2013

Aimee Bender writes stories of magical realism that have an edge of darkness to them- and sometimes more than an edge. While some are quite lovely- her writing has a bit of a bejeweled quality- they all have something ‘off’ even when there is no actual magic involved. The people don’t seem to make connections with each other, and they are all seeking that connection. A number of the stories feel like fairy tales; not the ones with pretty fairies and happy endings, but more of a brothers Grimm feel- a bit disturbing and unsettling. But the unsettled feeling is part- along with the language- that makes this book so good. This isn’t a book to read in a rush; each story deserves to be read by itself, with time to savor it before moving on. I’m not usually impressed by an entire book of short stories, but I am with this one. Even in a book of good stories, though, one stands out, the title story “The Color Master”. In this tale, a store produces clothing and shoes for the upper class. They don’t just use regular dyes and pigments; they use multiple dyings of different colors and pigments rubbed on over the top of these. Some of the pigments and dyes are crushed opals and diamond powder. The real treasure of the story is the Color Master herself, though, the person who can create such marvels as a dress the color of the sun, or the color of the moon. I highly recommend this book and need to find some of her other works. 

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