51 Aimee Bender on writing into uncertainty
For novelist Aimee Bender, magic is not a limited resource. Nor is it something to be feared, coveted, mistrusted or monetized. In her view, rather, magic is an everyday occurrence woven into the fabric of our lives captured in fleeting moments of transcendence all too often overlooked.
No wonderment, however small, seems to escape Aimee’s notice. And as her readers can attest, her comfort with uncanny occurrences can be found throughout her celebrated novels and essays. Whether she’s writing about a child’s ability to taste a parent’s depression in her bestselling novel, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake or a young woman confounded by inanimate objects that spring to life in The Butterfly Lampshade—Amy’s work gives voice and validity to the things we know and feel but can’t explain.
Aimee and Lorne share an interest in exploring the unknown and making sense of it in their writing. For me it’s best summed up by the subtitle of my book: from spaces of uncertainty to creative discovery. Whereas Aimee describes her connection to this terra incognita as a way of acknowledging “the presence of ghosts” and making room for a “different kind of thinking.”
Aimee is the rare artist whose warmth and gregariousness match her vast talents. And as you’ll soon hear, this conversation was no exception. As she sought to illuminate the mysterious and sometimes tortured nature of the writing process, she regularly invoked her students with deep affection. So it should come as no surprise that her creative writing classes at USC are among the most popular in the program.
Aimee and I also discussed the way creativity provides a “lab” for experimenting with uncertainty and how, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, writing, on a good day, can feel like dipping a cup into the river of ideas and delighting at the surprises discovered within it.
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