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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Bobbie Ann Mason

You may or may not remember that Southern writers are my focus this year, and in that pursuit I have found writers new to me, including Bobbie Ann Mason. 

Mason, a novelist and literary critic also writes short stories and essays and so far, none have disappointed me. From Kentucky, she wrote about the working classes within her state, but just to shake things up a bit the attended graduate school at the University of Connecticut, earning her Ph.D. in literature. Her dissertation on Vladimir Nabokov's, Ada, was published as the novel, Nabokov's Garden. And, if that wasn't enough for this little-ole, dairy-farm girl, she's had her short stories published in The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, and The Paris Review. Just for kicks, she received a Guggenheim Fellowship and a National Endowment of the Arts fellowship. And there is a long list of awards that you can check out on her website

Mason's work is not light reading. Weaving complex story threads along the lines of Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner, Mason's books are thought provoking, challenging reads. In Country is a poignant look at the Vietnam War - the secret war so many Americans didn't want to talk about - through the eyes of a young girl on the verge of adulthood. Mason's scene settings are apropos to the time and place and brought back a lot of memories. Feather Crowns brings to life another of Mason's strong female characters. Christie lives in the backwoods and is shocked when she gives birth to the first recorded set of quintuplets in North America. Christie and the women who surround her range from her country kin to carnival caricatures, then circle through rich women who think they can buy her fame, and ultimately bring Christie full circle when the young mother stands up for what she wants not what everyone wants her to want. A powerful story of the people of the early 1900s.

I think I'll try the Nabokov book next.


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