Aimee Bender’s unusual short story, “The Rememberer,” was first published in the Missouri Review in the fall of 1997. In 1998, Bender included the story in her debut collection, entitled The Girl in the Flammable Skirt. Most of the stories in the collection have a surreal, fairy-tale quality, and several feature bizarre physical transformations (in one story, for example, a woman gives birth to her own mother, and her husband wakes up to find a hole in his stomach “the size of a soccer ball” ).
“The Rememberer” tells the story of a woman whose lover, overnight, begins to evolve in reverse, from a man to an ape and then to a sea turtle. Though the situation is bizarre, it is placed in a realistic setting; the characters have an unremarkable relationship, ordinary jobs, and a normal home. This juxtaposition of the ordinary and the bizarre is a hallmark of magical realism, a modern literary genre used by authors such as Gabriel García Márquez and Angela Carter. Though the events are not based on reality, the themes explored are relevant to the real world; for those who care for frail elderly parents or spouses with Alzheimer’s disease, the story of a woman watching a loved one regress into mindlessness strikes a familiar emotional chord. Bender also examines the idea that as people become more and more cerebral, they lose the ability to feel emotion and become detached from the actual experience of their lives.
The Girl in the Flammable Skirt was well-received by critics, who praised Bender for both her wild imagination and insight into human emotions. Bender followed the collection with her first novel, An Invisible Sign of My Own.
As “The Rememberer” opens, the female narrator informs readers that her lover is “experiencing reverse evolution.” A sentence...
(The entire section is 638 words.)