Go read this book now. Seriously, NOW. I finished this book of stories in a few hours. It's funny, I hated An Invisible Sign of My Own, a novel of Bender's that I picked up at a library sale last year. It bugged me with its heavy-handedness and some other reasons I don't remember now.
Willful Creatures is fifteen stories in three parts. One story, ' The Case of the Salt and Pepper Shakers,' was in a McSweeney's that I read awhile ago, and remember enjoying. The rest, I read so hungrily it was as if I hadn't finished Whistle Stop seriously ten minutes before.
'End of the Line' is a meditation on cruelty and loneliness, involing a tiny man and a big man. 'Debbieland' looks inside the mind of the woman that your middle school bully has become. It is not pretty.'Ironhead' is about a family of pumpkin heads. It made me cry, or rather, it reminded me of a part of the pain I carry around that I forgot for a second. That sucked, but repect that kind of power that Bender seems to be able to wield in stories that could be described (if you aren't very good at describing things) as modern fairy tales. In fact most of these stories have fantastic elements and yet feel as real as any book about college or WWII, or some other serious topic, instead of potato babies and crazy bitches (as main characters, not foils- but that's another post).
Bender takes on depravity with a refreshingly sinister and immediate voice. She also writes about hope in such a beautifully straightforward way I could just break down right here, right now and ask you to marry me.
Get this book now!