Aimee Bender: The Willow Springs Interview

Jonathan Lethem has called Aimee Bender’s work “visionary, but close to home.” Her short fiction has appeared in such places as GQ, the Paris Review, and Harper’s. Her first story collection, The Girl In The Flammable Skirt was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and spent seven weeks on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list. An Entertainment Weekly review of her second story collection, Willful Creatures, claimed that “to curl up with an Aimee Bender story is to thank heaven you ever learned to read in the first place.”

Bender’s work is widely known and imitated for its tendencies toward magical realism, but she doesn’t like to see her work—which is also steeped in the realist tradition—chained to any particular style: “It doesn’t matter if something is realistic or non-realistic,” she says. “How someone phrases something is more important to me, if something is said in a new way.” Some of that penchant for realism is evident in her novel, An Invisible Sign of My Own (Doubleday, 2004), a book the New York Times Book Review called “intelligent and engaging.”

A native of Southern California, Ms. Bender received her BA from the University of California at San Diego, and her MFA from the University of California at Irvine. She now teaches at the University of Southern California. Willow Springs met her over lunch at Finn & Porter restaurant in Missoula, across the street from the University of Montana, where she was visiting the MFA program.

Bender accepts as many interview requests as any writer working today—a Google search for “Aimee Bender interview” yields almost 100,000 hits, from magazines to newspapers to individual bloggers.

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