Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Melvin Jules Bukiet: Advocate for the the Death of Kittens. And Smoking.

Tamilda the Genius 10yr Old, here. Jessa Crispin over at Bookslut alerted me to an article at the American Scholar written by someone named Melvin Jules Bukiet. The article is called "Wonder Bread," with a subtitle thingy that runs like so: Come with us to a place called Brooklyn, where the stories are half-baked and their endings bland and soft. The subtitle thingy is, I take it, some sort of play on words, though I'm unsure what part of the loaf of Wonder Bread is the story-part and what part is the ending-part. I would imagine that the story-part is kind of a state of the loaf (i.e., being half-baked) whereas the ending-part is the loaf, or is the subjective experience of what it is to eat the loaf. It is very complicated and doughy pun / metaphor /analogy, almost as complex and doughy as the author's name: Melvin Jules Bukiet.

Anyways, I have read Melvin Jules Bukiet's article and it seems to me that the stone cold kernel of its argument is this: we need more novels and short stories where people smoke cigarettes and kittens are accidentally killed.

OK, this might just be a corollary kernel of the essay's even more central and even more unbreakable kernel: Wonder Is Bad. Wonder Is Bad, and any author who employs wonder to any end that doesn't illuminate the true and real fact that human experience is Utterly Hopeless and Horrible is worse than Bad, they are Phony. A few times the essay wavers on this point, and tries to finesse it, but I find it hard to believe that anyone would walk away from the essay thinking that Melvin Jules Bukiet's point isn't larger and loftier and darker than merely that a certain sort of trendy book is misguided.

As Zizek tells us, kernels tend to be indivisible, and therefore I will try to do something entirely else with Melvin Jules Bukiet's stone cold kernel. I am going to heat it up. I am going to heat it up, roll it around in some oil, and then I am going to sit and wait and watch until (POP!) it pops out of the pan, and then I'm going to pick it up, walk into my yard and throw it to a bird who will lift it into the sky.

But back to the smoking and the accidentally murdered kittens. Melvin Jules Bukiet's essay proceeds by examining a vast number of works written by young hipsterish Brooklynites or Brooklynites-in-absentia (Jonathan Safran Foer, Myla Goldberg, Alice Sebold, &c) and comes to the conclusion that all of their novels fit a certain predictable structure: something terribly bad and sad happens at the beginning (9/11, a girl is raped and murdered, the Holocaust), but by the end the characters in the novel somehow learn to cope with that awful event via some form of the fantastic acting in reality, be it relayed via magical realism or unbelievable coincidence or whatever. The idea being that these young authors offer an escape from the horrors of reality rather than spending 400 pages facing up to that reality.

But what about the kittens? Woven through the mean-spirited critiques of these books by young authors is Melvin Jules Bukiet's genealogy of the Brooklyn Book of Wonder (he drops the Wonder Bread pun / metaphor / analogy as quickly as he picks it up), citing Michael Chabon and JD Salinger and Paul Auster and even Günter Grass. And Jonathan Lethem. Melvin Jules Bukiet seems to like Lethem, a little, and argues that the "BBoW authors have adopted Lethem as a surrogate father," and that "he ought to disinherit them." Why? Because they, his imitators, have somehow "carried [him] away" with wonder.

So OK, here's the kittens:
Moreover, Lethem doesn’t pull punches. On the second page of The Fortress of Solitude, a kitten is accidentally killed while the protagonist’s mother smokes cigarettes. Unless it’s Mr. Harvey in The Lovely Bones, no one smokes in BBoWs. They’d as soon smoke as fail to recycle. Also, a daring flight at the end crashes.
I copied and pasted this quote so that I could really lean into it, so that I could smash it to pieces, so that I--Tamilda, the 10yr Old Genius--could pretend to be like Edward Norton in Fight Club and destroy something beautiful. Except that as I reread it I'm no longer angered--this passage is not like Jared Leto's face. It's more like Meat Loaf's, and that's sad. In fact, Melvin Jules Bukiet's whole essay reminds me not of Wonder Bread, but of Meat Loaf. Yes, the singer / actor / pitiful victim of testicular cancer, but also the food, the actual loaf of meat. It's heavy, it's eerily dark, and I almost never want to eat it. It's Wonder Bread gone horribly, crazily wrong.

So let's leave aside the fact that a kitten being accidentally killed while a mother smokes is a far weaker "punch" than the opening of The Lovely Bones that Melvin Jules Bukiet describes earlier in his essay--that is, the opening where a young girl somehow magically survives or transcends her rape and murder. Let's leave aside the fact that this part of his argument undermines itself and let's get to the indivisible kernel of my own argument.

My central hypothesis is this: Melvin Jules Bukiet is a nerd. A big one. And not one of those kind of cool half-ironic Wonder-Bread-t-shirt-wearing Brooklynite nerds, but like an old school Revenge of the Nerds-type nerd. I know, it shocked me too. I never would have guessed it based on his name. And yet look at this picture:

At the beginning of his essay Melvin Jules Bukiet is very interested in letting us know that he knows about all of the hip streets and neighborhoods and landmarks in Brooklyn. At first he just drops names (Prospect Park, Fort Greene) but quickly enough he just outright lists places in order to establish his credibility. You should notice, however, what is conspicuously absent from his essay: the nerd picture. It would ruin his whole ethos and clue us into the fact that with a name like Melvin he must be good friends with wedgies. I am imagining an entire dresser drawer filled with underwear elastic thrown to him by bullies. Heck, I bet even the half-ironic Wonder Bread t-shirt nerds gave this guy wedgies when he was young and--and I can't tell this for certain, it is just another hypothesis--I bet that they still do.

If Jonathan Safran Foer [cf. the never-used Freaks and Geeks photo below] is giving you wedgies and you are a college professor of course your world view is going to be bleak as heck. The kid in my class who got the wedgie at the beginning of the year didn't eat his lunch for a week, and that was his first wedgie. Imagine what a lifetime of wedgies would do to you! It would make you conclude your essays like this:
In fact, trauma’s never overcome. That’s what defines it. Your father is dead, or your mother, and so are most of the Jews of Europe, and the World Trade Center’s gone, and racism prevails, and sex murders occur. What is, is. The real is the true, and anything that suggests otherwise, no matter how artfully constructed, is a violation of human experience.
Here's the problem with this logic: the real, the whole real, hasn't already happened. Yes, we are shaped by our personal and collective histories, sometimes irrevocably. But not always. The real is not something that is always already predetermined, that we can only watch from the sidelines, keeping a scorecard. That's not how it works, because we are part of the game, and because the game isn't over.

My friend Percy Shelley always tells me this when we're losing in t-ball, and the authors that Melvin Jules Bukiet cites at the beginning of the essay believe this too. What is the last word of Joyce's Ulysses? It is Yes. In the end Molly returns to a memory of when she and Bloom were young and half in love--not half in love with easeful Death like melancholy Keats, but half in love with love and hope and possibility and, yes, Wonder. If there's nothing to hope for, to wonder about, we should ask what is life worth living for and seriously consider the late Kurt Vonnegut's idea that human beings should just leave.

At a reading at Skylight Books in Los Feliz last night the fiction writer Steve Almond made the convincing case that in spite of the sadness, Vonnegut is actually an extremely hopeful writer--that he helps us through trauma via the "courage of his imagination" (Almond's words), and that this is why people like Jon Stewart have thanked Vonnegut for making high school livable. It seems to me that this is what fiction should do: it should open our eyes to the horrors and truths of Pandora's box, without losing sight of the hope, wonder, buried at the bottom of things.

Now, this does not mean that the books that Melvin Jules Bukiet reviews aren't employing Wonder irresponsibly. (I haven't read all of the novels of the last few years that Melvin Jules Bukiet refers to, and hadn't planned on doing so any time soon--there are other books like Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke that are higher on my list. I'm not sure that people regard BBoW as anything more than wish-fulfillment-lit in the first place. In other words, it seems to me that solid American Literature won't be shaken by their, in Melvin Jules Bukiet's words, "ripples").

There is nothing more pressing than actively critiquing our fantasies, our "wonders"--I am far more than sympathetic to this cause. Without such intangible wonders eating up our time and molding our ideals we wouldn't, for example, be fighting a hopeless war in Iraq. This aspect of Melvin Jules Bukiet's argument is categorically true. Joyce, too, makes it crystal clear that things only get better after shattering the fantasy. In the Circe chapter of Ulysses Stephen Dedalus shatters the fantasy-producing gas lamp at the whorehouse with his ashplant, and it is only then that he and Bloom can commune. But the fantasy was necessary--"the true" and "the real" couldn't have come to light without the fantasy, without the gas lamp, and this is because that is how human beings experience the world. Through fiction.

It makes me wonder what Melvin Jules Bukiet's fiction must be like. Maybe I'll read it one day...


Here are my dogs. They're great.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Christianne Alarmist-Librarian reviews Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union

I was not personally aware that the Jews had been relocated to Alaska, but I suppose it only makes sense.

The majority of my knowledge of the Jewish culture and religion comes from my husband's stories about that dreadful program on the Home Box Office Network, Curb Your Enthusiasm. I normally would never allow him to watch such a program, but my sister and her husband, who live down in liberal Cambridge, Massachusetts, have strayed from our flock. If it weren't for the efforts of myself and my husband I swear that my sister and her husband would immediately divorce one another and marry the nearest person of the same sex walking down the street. Which is, as I understand it, the law in Massachusetts.

This is why it is so important that my husband watch Curb Your Enthusiasm with my brother-in-law. Because it allows them to bond, spiritually. It is our belief that just as in the time of Christ Judaism gave birth to Christianity, so too will Curb Your Enthusiasm resurrect my poor dear sister's fallen soul. As for my brother-in-law, he can go to hell for all I care. He's the one, after all, who bought the DVD's. He's the one who plucked my sister's soul from heaven and placed it in the dumpster, as one places a slim and still-fragrant orange peel on top of a heaping pile of rotting garbage (i.e. Barney Frank's congressional district).

But her peel can be saved! It's still fragrant! I've smelled it! I've smelled it in the way she washes the dishes, in the way she admonishes her husband's off-color jokes about Our President, and in the way she bites at her lower lip whenever I'm around. Her peel can be washed!

After these Curb Your Enthusiasm Saturdays my husband, too, must be washed. On the drive back to New Hampshire I make him repeat to me every blasphemous and un-Christian thing that happened in the episode. This is how I wash him.

As we leave the city he is usually deeply embarrassed, and blushes, and usually begins with the words Larry David uses. He said a swear, my husband will say. What swear, I will ask, eager to hear what swear so that I can wash it away with my, as it were, spiritual hand sanitizer. I think it was a Jewish swear--M@sh#gg@!-something. Oh dear, I say, usually while applying actual hand sanitizer to the fronts and backs of my hands, because my sister, in her spiritual neglect, keeps an absolutely filthy home.

After the first swear, usually a Jewish one, my husband and I tend to keep silent for several long minutes. But then, once we leave the city, we begin to loosen up and we become more confident in our faith, and he tells me everything that happened. Who said what, what those pagans did, how some seemingly small detail of the story loops back on itself to bite Larry in the tush at the end. By the time we roll into our driveway we're so hopped up on our faith and hand sanitizer fumes that we're practically speaking in tongues, which, with all of those Jewish swears, we sort of are. And the funniest thing is that our Enthusiasm isn't Curbed at all--it's Redoubled! I think that the PAX network should launch a counterattack on HBO called Redouble Your Enthusiasm! Now that's a show I could watch!

Wow, thinking about that show I got a little carried away with my faith there--I was picturing how heretical that episode where Larry David accidentally sets the Manger Scene on fire must have been to watch. But that's how faith works. When faith carries you away, you gotta run with it. You gotta run with it like you'd run away from a flaming Manger Scene! Ha!

I'm sorry. Let's return to Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union. From what I gather this Mr. Chabon must have watched quite a bit of Curb Your Enthusiasm. I cannot say this for certain, as I do not know Mr. Chabon personally, thank God, nor have I ever seen the show. What I can say, however, is that as I read Mr. Chabon's devilishly clever descriptions of the characters in the Jewish-Alaskan town of Sitka, what I pictured was this:

A whole city full of foul-mouthed, bald, sinning, and from what I gather very Jewish, Larry Davids. Needless to say the first 50 pages were utterly horrifying. But, as happens in the car rides from Boston, I quickly regained the strength of my faith, flipped open a couple bottles of hand sanitizer, breathed in their cleansing fumes, and began rolling through chapter after chapter of Mr. Chabon's wacky narrative as though they were episodes of Seventh Heaven.

But why, you ask, would I ever even want to touch such a novel, even while wearing several differently scented layers of antibacterial hand sanitizer? Because the library where I work was going to put this book up on the shelf, without thinking. Book Sense recommended it and, sheep that they are, the other librarians ordered two copies to put up on the shelves for anyone (children, adults, Christians, Jews, Moslems) to read. Luckily I caught the two copies on the shelving cart, checked them out under the secret library account I made for just such emergencies, and reported the other librarians to the Department of Homeland Security.

And so I read it, the whole thing, every night in the bathtub surrounded by antibacterial candles and opened bottles of hand sanitizer. It took all of my faith to stand up to it and its blasphemies. During this time my husband reports that I would sometimes talk in tongues in my sleep, and when he tried to describe the noises that issued from my unconscious mouth I quickly recognized them as passages from the book. For example this one:

A mob of black-hat Jews chugs its way, a freight train of grief, from the gates of the cemetery--the house of life, they call it--up a hillside toward a hole cut into the mud. A pine box slick with rain pitches and tosses on the surf of weeping men. Satmars hold umbrellas over the heads of Verbovers. Gerers and Shtrakenzers and Viznitzers link arms with the boldness of schoolgirls on a lark. Rivalries, grudges, sectarian disputes, mutual excommunications, they've been laid aside for the day so that everyone can mourn with due passion a yid who was forgotten by them until last Friday night. Not even a yid--the shell of a yid, thinned to transparency around the hard void of a twenty-year junk habit. Every generation loses the messiah it has failed to deserve. Now the pious of the Sitka District have pinpointed the site of their collective unworthiness and gathered in the rain to lay it in the ground (197).
Shtrakenzer? Yid? Twenty-year junk habit? Viznitzer? Shell of a yid? After repeating these phrases, foreign to him and now all too familiar to myself, my husband reported that in my sleep, as I lay on my back repeating Mr. Chabon's words, tears were running running across my cheekbones, away from each other, and onto the pillow.

This is not to say that in its Larry David-like fiendishness The Yiddish Policemen's Union is a great book. It is a good one, a fun one, and an entertaining one. I don't say this because in the novel's pages the Apocalypse did not actually happen, which is of course the truest sign of any truly great book. No. I say this because in spite of its prose, which is often sublime (I repeated it in my sleep, after all), it lacks something. Call it heart. There are times where the heart is there, as in the funeral scene of Mendele Shpilman quoted above, but more often than not the heart seemed to me to be almost purely linguistic. Call it "heart."

Or better yet, call it humor. The dark humor that saturates this book like a clammy Alaskan humidity never quite makes it to the places that, I hear from my husband, Curb Your Enthusiasm makes it to. There are genuinely funny lines, but overall the humor holds far too much back for my (husband's) tastes, as though it were more worried about not making a bad joke than about actually making good ones. The jokes are muted--muted and plentiful. Perhaps this reflects the muted beaten-down nature of the citizens of Sitka (its population is reported to be over 3 million, and is slowly being evacuated). Chabon never holds back as much as someone like Kafka, who--so I hear--never breaks a straight face. I would say, and I know this is harsh, that Chabon in fact holds back the exact wrong amount.

It reminds me most of the slapsticky tone and humor of Thomas Pynchon, who I have read and banned from my library, and who I've never found outrightly knee-slappingly hand-sanitizer-fumingly funny. Not funny like John Kennedy Toole or David Foster Wallace are funny--(I banned them, too). The humor, rather, is diffused throughout the--and I can't repeat this enough--absolutely brilliant and tenaciously inventive prose, so that as you read you find yourself "laughing" rather than laughing.

And don't get me wrong. It's not that I think that Michael Chabon missed his mark. I think he hit it dead center. I suppose what I can't figure out is why he would be aiming for that mark in the first place.

And yet I genuinely liked this book. It Redoubled My Enthusiasm! Heck, it Quadrupled My Enthusiasm! And so I didn't ban it. I merely shelved it, secretly and without the Department of Homeland Security's knowledge, in the Non-Fiction section. People should know about the plight of those poor Jews in Alaska--they just shouldn't know too much.

Here are my dogs:
Moral Note: We allowed Samson [bottom left] to wear the blasphemous Harry Potter costume because of how much he licks himself. We figure that if he's going to hell anyways, why not let him have some fun beforehand. Plus the wizard's robes make it harder for him to lick himself.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Tamilda the Genius 10yr Old Baffles Univ. of Maryland Researchers by Discovering the 100% Perfect Yawn

My mom was driving me and Percy and my dog to t-ball practice today and there was this really weird story on NPR about yawning, about this professor guy who tried to design and record the 100% Perfect Yawn--a yawn so yawny and lazily contagious that anyone who heard it would just instantly stop what they were doing, open their mouth, stretch their arms or paws behind their heads, and Yaaawwwhnnnn.


But there was a problem and the problem was this: no matter how good the yawns were that he was taping, no matter how loud or quiet, whether they played them with video or just with the sound, no matter what angle or how wide people yawned, no matter what the scientists did only 55% of people hearing or watching the tape yawned. 55%. They kept seeing that number (55%) over and over, and they couldn't do better. It was incredibly, incredibly frustrating for them. It must have felt, for them, like an unfinished yawn, 45% of which laid down in their diaphragms, heavy and sleepy and not budging an inch.

What, if you were a psychology professor devoting your life to yawning, could be more frustrating than that? Perhaps this: I, a ten year old living outside of Cleveland, have discovered the 100% Perfect Yawn, a yawn so contagious that anyone who even glimpses it involuntarily and immediately yawns and falls asleep. It is 557 pages long, was published in 2001, and it is 100% Perfect at making you, your dog, the person who wrote it, yawn like an abyss. It is a yawn in prose. It is The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen.

How did I, Tamilda, a 10yr old, end up reading a book like The Corrections? Well it happened like this: my principal had an nervous breakdown. Because she was an elementary school principal it is safe to say that her psyche was already teetering on the edge of whatever table or armoire psyches normal sit on. In first grade, for example, I once peeked into her office and saw her running around waving a red high heeled shoe in the air at what I, crouched and peeking, took to be a bat because Principal Mendez shouted at least twice that she wished "[it] would just materialize already so that [she] could drive a wooden stake through [its] bloody heart!!!" Meaning that she thought the bat was a vampire that could somehow "materialize," even though that's not exactly what vampires do (they metamorphose). Also, she was wielding a red high heeled shoe at the walls and ceiling and framed diplomas, not a wooden stake. Also, there was no bat.

After a minute or so the secretary saw me crouching and gawking and recording ever detail of this for future use with what was already, at age six, a pretty astounding memory, and told me to "shoo" with one hand as she secretly gave me a long waxy Tootsie Roll with the other. The point of this anecdote being that my principal, Mrs. Mendez, was well on her way to Crazyville well before the No Child Left Behind standards kicked into high gear and caused her to decide that our entire schoolwide curriculum would revolve around Fractions and the War of 1812, which she saw as somehow related.

I know more about Fractions and the War of 1812 than most PhD's who've written dissertations on the War of 1812 or Fractions (if such PhD's exist), and therefore when I sit at my desk listening to my teacher or some overeager bleeding heart graduate student volunteer lecture my class on Andrew Jackson or the number 11/20 I am literally bored out of my mind. And when I use the word literally I mean it literally: my mind literally crawls out of my head and wanders around the school, snooping into teacher's desks, into their purses, into the lunch box of the kid whose parents have a maid. My mind can do that, and that is how I ended up reading The Corrections.

On one such day, a week ago, my mind crawled out of my head, walked down the hallway, ran its fingernails along the grout between the tiles, pulled the sharp odor of antiseptic wax into its nostrils, and angled into the teacher's lounge where it began rifling, as my bored-out-of-its-mind-mind was wont to do, through the teachers' personal belongings. Lipstick, chapstick, tissues, pictures of ugly children the teachers hid from us--the usual. But then, tucked into the side pocket of Mrs. Saunders' faux-Louis Vuitton, something unusual: the 100% Perfect Yawn. My mind slipped it out of the bag, thumbed through it, read the back cover, and tried to figure out what a woman whose official job was titled District and Regional Grade Normer could be doing reading a book described as "Frighteningly, luminously authentic."

It must, my mind decided, have been some sort of cruel play on words--The Corrections, Grade Normer: get it?--given to her by the art teacher the previous Xmas in the Secret Santa exchange. As I thought about reading it, flipping it back and forth in my mind's hands, there was suddenly a noise, back in the classroom. My mind dropped the book, sailed along the waxy scents of the hallway and then leaped straight back into my head and peeked out of my eyes just in time to see Hilary Fuentes swivel down in her seat, place her hand to the side of her mouth as though she were about to the tell the floor a secret, and puke all over the tan linoleum, apparently out of pure boredom. Her mind, it seems, can't wander quite as freely as my own.

But back to Jonathan Franzen's 100% Perfect Yawn. I was soooo bored by the Fractions and the War of 1812 that--and recall, children were literally puking out of boredom--my mind would climb out of my head, walk down the hall, pick up The Corrections, and read it for 6 hours a day every day for a week. That is, 6/24 = 1/4 = a solid quarter of my day was spent with Jonathan Franzen, who supposedly wrote the book while blindfolded. By the way, I normally read much faster, around 180pp/hr, but that's when it's me sitting with the book in my lap, reading words on a page--having your bored-out-of-your-mind-mind read it several doors down the darkened hallway takes considerably more time and energy and patience.

But I did read it. I read every single word that Franzen wrote, and I yawned. I read those words and I wished for something else, anything else, even Strong Motion, and I yawned. I read that whole damn book all the way to the end, and boy oh boy did I yawn. Life became, through that book, a living yawn, a static yawn, like how Michael Bolton breathes in through his nose and out through his saxophone for days and days on end. That was me, except that my saxophone was a 557 page book about a horribly unhappy family. It truly was the 100% Perfect Yawn and had it gone on for two hundred more pages I don't doubt that it would have been infinite. A black hole yawn that could swallow life, the universe, and everything.

But at least I didn't puke--I can say that much for the book.

(I'm just joking. I didn't read any of that book--I wasn't that bored. I read the 4322 page District and Regional Grade Norming Handbook instead.)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Review of Aimee Bender's Willful Creatures: Stories, written by Michael Flatly-Abrasive (MFA)

Wow, so I get the first post. Which when you think about it I guess is only fitting, since I'm the only actual writer here. Unless you count Shelley. But you shouldn't, because he's a poet. And wordy. So let me rephrase: it is fitting that I write this first post because I am the only actual writer here. Meaning that I write fiction, not poetry or criticism, neither of which are Full-Fledged Writing.

But let's move on to the critical review of Aimee Bender's short story collection Willful Creatures that I've written. Aimee Bender's book is, in short, ABSOLUTELY PERFECT. It's sentences are short, but not always sweet. Sometimes they are sour. Or bitter. Or salty. Or even that weird taste, umami, which means savory. And her words are simple, easy. She would never use a word like umami in her stories, because she is a professional.

Like look at these two gems, from the story "The Case of the Salt and Pepper Shakers":
She shut the book. "Case closed," she said.
Just look at how short those sentences are! They're like daggers. Daggers made of diamonds! And the words couldn't be easier--I didn't have to look any of them up in the dictionary. They're easy and yet they're not repetitive. Just peer at how she uses shut in the first sentence and then uses closed. There's something going on there, and it's damn interesting.

Bender's writing reminds me of Rayomd Carver at his best. While I've never actually read
anything by Raymond Chandler, I hear that he has the shortest sentences in town, and that they are like daggers. That they cut right to the heart of the matter. In the end, however, I have to say that Aimee Bender's prose is superior to Carver's. Why? Because while Chandler's sentences are indeed like daggers--just go read one, I'm sure you won't be disappointed--the sentences in Willful Creatures are like daggers made of diamonds. In other words, yes, Carver's sentences cut and glint, but Bender's cut AND glint AND sparkle.

That is: while Chandler's words chandle, like a knife chandling a turkey at Thanksgiving, Bender's words sparkle, like diamonds bending light at Christmas.

For example: The boy was born with fingers shaped like keys. All except one, the pinkie on the right hand, had sharp ridges running along their inner length, and a point at the tip. They were made of flesh, with nerves and pores, but of a tougher texture, more hardened and specific. As a child, the boy had a hard time learning to hold a pen and use scissors, but he was resilient and figured out his own method fast enough. His true task was to find the nine doors.

And then at the bottom of the page there's just three dots, which means that there should be a space there, but that only having a space there might be confusing because the space would be at the bottom of the page and would just look like a normal page bottom, and people might miss the fact that a gap or space should be there in the narrative. So the reader reads to the bottom of the page and sees three dots and knows, Wait A Minute, There Should Be A Space There, Something Fishy Must Be Going On, and then before he/she even turns the page must be like Holy Shit, Who Is This Key Boy? And What Are Those Doors? And most importantly, What Crazy Shit Must Be Behind Those Nine Doors That Would Be Locked By Key Fingers? Plus, What's The Deal With That Normal Pinkie? And What Does It Mean When It Says That As A Child, The Boy Had A Hard Time...? Is He Still A Boy Even Though He's Really Old Now? What's Going On? Is Time All Crazy In This Story World? And What About Our Own World? Maybe Our Own World Is Totally Crazy Too!

Bender's words make you not just think these things. They make you feel them. Her words sparkle, as though were written in italics. She somehow creates this sparkly mood, call it wonder, in each story, over and over, and without too many italics. If you read those stories you'll be like: What? A Boy Is Born With An Iron For A Head? When His Parents Have Pumpkin Heads? WTF??? Or: What? This Woman Has Babies Who Are Potatoes? WTF? Or: A Man Goes To The Pet Store To Buy A Little Man? A Little Man? WTF? A Car Made of Dryer Sheets? That Can't Happen! WTF?

Now, I haven't read all of these stories, but I did read about them on the back of the book where, I will note in a purely Platonic aside, there is a very cute and happy looking picture of Aimee Bender. Smiling. Oval-enframed, with hair like Gottfried von Leibniz.

She's that smart. And I don't say this merely because she is a fellow UC Irvine Anteater. Or because I think she might help me one day publish my own collection of short stories. Or because I hope to one day date her. I say this because it is deep and beautiful and true. I say, Aimee Bender, bravo.