I have to admit that this was one of the tougher playlists to put together. Aimee Bender’s latest collection, The Color Master, does not easily lend itself to non-ephemeral song. It’s a collection that drops hints. In the opening story, “Appleless,” for example, a girl refuses to eat apples, compelling those in the orchard to eat the fruit in excess while she circles the trees over and over. Eventually the apple-eaters’ desire becomes too big and they overwhelm the girl, touching her, smothering her as they move in closer and closer. Like much of the collection, “Appleless” is a story about hunger, about desire, about consumption.
Sometimes the hunger is literal, as in the closing story, “The Devourings,” in which an ogre father eats his children. Sometimes the hunger is less literal; sometimes it is sexual (“On a Saturday Afternoon”) or monetary (“The Red Ribbon”).
In “The Fake Nazi,” a man metaphorically consumes a whole nation’s guilt, asking for punishment for something he had no part in. In “Lemonade,” a teenage girl hungers for acceptance. In “The Doctor and the Rabbi” the doctor desires knowledge he can’t possibly achieve.
It goes on.
Bender’s stories are playful, a little dark, and sharp around the edges. (A notable exception to this rule is “A State of Variance,” which ended up having the sweetest ending. Good sweet. Not rot-your-teeth sweet.) In this collection, Bender strikes a balance between pointing out—and amping up—the oddities of real life (“The Red Ribbon”), and going whole hog into the realm of fantasy (“The Devourings”).
Some of the songs on this playlist are instrumental; some are not. Some of Bender’s stories warrant a quieter backdrop; others beg for words. Either way, each song in this playlist reflects the hunger and desire of Bender’s characters. They dive right on in to the deep end of the collection’s happy/sad/uncomfortable/satiated/desperate/ despairing/quietly-joyful tone. I hope you do, too.
(Click through for the song list, and don’t forget to also check out our interview with Aimee Bender on the blog today!)
“Appleless”: “Wait it Out (Instrumental)” by Imogen Heap
“The Red Ribbon”: “Old Jacket” by Regina Spektor (read the translation! read the translation!)
“Tiger Mending”: “Wait a Minute” by Music Box
“Faces”: “I Can’t See Your Face in My Mind” by The Doors (The protagonist in Bender’s story doesn’t recognize faces. This is a real thing, folks. Apparently even Brad Pitt thinks he suffers from prosopagnosia.)
“On a Saturday Afternoon”: “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd
“The Fake Nazi”: “Orange Sky” by Alexi Murdoch
“Lemonade”: “This is What Makes Us Girls” by Lana del Ray
“Bad Return”: “Train Not Stopping” by Harper Lee
“Origin Lessons”: “The Galaxy Song” by Monty Python
“The Doctor and the Rabbi”: “Everything’s Going to Be Okay” by Takashi Kamide
“Wordkeepers”: “I Don’t Know What to Say” by The Magnetic Fields
“The Color Master”: “Suite in D (from Terpsichore)” by Christopher Parkening
“A State of Variance”: “Dragon” by Breathe Owl Breathe
“Americca”: “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” by The Flaming Lips
“The Devourings”: “Beautiful Dawn” by The Wailin’ Jennys