Sunday, July 3, 2011

Aimee Bender: Author, Teacher, Ladle, Giver

   You may or may not have seen my review of the book The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.  It was penned by Aimee Bender and was the topic of our book club's discussion dinner this month. As mentioned before, a new friend of mine (hi Julia!) connected us to this fresh author who very graciously devoted over half an hour of her personal time to call Oklahoma for some Q & A.  She willingly indulged the World's Coolest Book Club (we're still working on an actual name and mascot; I'm pulling for Lingonberries) with questions, remarks, answers, and creative explorations.  I will not pretend to be such a worldly and cultural person to have a ton of experience with author Q & A, but I do have enough under my belt to say that this lovely woman blew me away.



   Of the group of about ten women who read the book, seven of us could attend the dinner.  We all contributed to what would become a simmering gumbo of reactions to this unusual piece of literature, but the one sentiment we shared was gratitude to Ms. Bender for her generosity and openness last Thursday night.  With gentleness and humor, sincere artistic curiosity, and humility that almost had her surrendering ownership of the story she had crafted, Aimee offered the seven of us via speakerphone a glimpse into her soul and into her writer's world.

   That is a good example of how easy-going she was; I felt immediately comfortable and called her by her first name throughout the interview, and she didn't seem to flinch.  I caught myself way too late and now am hoping it was okay.  xoxo  She's lucky, I suppose, not to have been attack-hugged through the fiber optic lines.

   Whether you are a writer at heart or an avid consumer of the written word, these thirty five minutes would have left you fuller and more inspired than you were.  One or two of our readers were less than enchanted by the science-fiction twists of Lemon Cake, so much so that they almost didn't like the book as a whole by the end, but then hearing from Aimee deepened the discussion tremendously. 
   We flew through so many words and emotions that I could almost write a book over just the discussion of this fascinating book.  This reinforces my standing opinion that Lemon Cake will become a classic read for those bent on intimate family studies and emotional development topics.  For review purposes, though, I will hand pick some of the most glowing subject matter and trust that you might read the book for yourself then seek out some savory answers. 

   That is exactly what the author herself encouraged as we began the conversation!  She wanted to know what meanings we found in her book.  Wait.  Are you kidding me?  Is this a trick, or a mysterious question-that-leads-to-its-own-answer?  Nope.  She was innocently intrigued by how the story affected others, what they saw in it, etc. 
   One analogy she made was a reference to Bob Dylan: he considers himself not a songwriter but a ladle, a cup, just dipping himself into a river of music.  As Aimee's soft, easy voice painted this picture for us over the miles, seven heads nodded slowly, approvingly, all around the room.  We got it, and we universally accepted her invitation to take her story for our own devices.

   But we remain readers, not novelists, certainly not writers of this story, so we were still brimming with questions which she indulged patiently.  In the next few days I'll try my best to share the insights.


  

pinnable

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