The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, By Aimee Bender

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The Independent Culture

Aimee Bender's last book, the best-selling novel The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, toed the line between cynicism and cutesiness. This reissued story collection has a darker, erotic edge: in "Quiet Please" a grieving librarian seeks anonymous sex with patrons; in "Call My Name" a bored and affluent young woman "auditions" men on the subway before following them home.

Often there is some sort of magical realist element: in "The Rememberer" a man turns into a turtle in a process of "reverse evolution"; in "The Healer" two young "mutants" seek to come to terms with their powers. But you never feel that Bender is indulging in weirdness for weirdness's sake; she seems to be working towards new ways to write about emotional distress. None of these brief tales outstays its welcome; each of them lingers in the mind.