Author Aimee Bender, who is currently the 28th Zale-Kimmerling Writer-in-Residence at Tulane, will read from her work and field interview questions at 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 28, in the Freeman Auditorium at Tulane. Bender is the author of four books, and her short fiction has been published in Granta, GQ, Harper’s, Tin House, McSweeney’s, and The Paris Review.
From the introduction to a 2010 interview with Bender that appeared in the Wall Street Journal on the occasion of the publication of her most recent book, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake:
Aimee Bender’s melding of reality and fantasy has led literary critics to label her as a “magical realist.” But that tag overlooks some of the nuance in her work. The fairy-tale elements in her writing, far from seeming outlandish, highlight the everyday nature of her characters’ flaws and struggles.
In Ms. Bender’s stories and novels, relationships and mundane activities take on mythic qualities. In one story in her debut collection from 1999, “The Girl in the Flammable Skirt,” a woman’s lover devolves from human to ape to reptile and finally to a single-cell organism. A math teacher in her 2000 novel, “An Invisible Sign of My Own,” believes every object in the universe has a number associated with it. In her 2005 surreal collection of stories, “Willful Creatures,” seven little potatoes show up at a woman’s home in hopes that she will adopt them. Instead the woman throws them out; after they return, she eats one.
Ms. Bender’s new novel, “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake,” features a girl who can taste emotions in food. She tastes her mother’s dissatisfaction in a birthday cake, can tell that a chef in a French bistro was feeling rushed and sad while making a quiche and even discovers that her mother is having an affair from the peculiar mix of flavors in a roast beef. Rose, the narrator, feels burdened by her ability, which is never fully explained. The narrative takes a surprising turn when she begins to suspect that her older brother, and possibly her father, have strange abilities of their own.
Read the full interview here.