Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Bobcat and Other Stories

Bobcat and Other Stories by Rebecca Lee
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 6/11/2013
Trade Paperback, 256 pages
ISBN-13: 9781616201739 

Rebecca Lee, one of our most gifted and original short story writers, guides readers into a range of landscapes, both foreign and domestic, crafting stories as rich as novels. A student plagiarizes a paper and holds fast to her alibi until she finds herself complicit in the resurrection of one professor's shadowy past. A dinner party becomes the occasion for the dissolution of more than one marriage. A woman is hired to find a wife for the one true soulmate she's ever found. In all, Rebecca Lee traverses the terrain of infidelity, obligation, sacrifice, jealousy, and yet finally, optimism. Showing people at their most vulnerable, Lee creates characters so wonderfully flawed, so driven by their desire, so compelled to make sense of their human condition, that it's impossible not to feel for them when their fragile belief in romantic love, domestic bliss, or academic seclusion fails to provide them with the sort of force field they'd expected.
My Thoughts:

Bobcat and Other Stories by Rebecca Lee is a collection of seven short stories. The stories included are: Bobcat; Banks of the Vistula; Slatland; Min; World Party; Fialta; Settlers.
"Bobcat," the opening story, features a dinner party that foreshadows some unexpected results and entertains doubts about the veracity of more than one guest's story.
In "Banks of the Vistula" a student plagiarist is known but not quite revealed.
"Slatland" has a character who encounters the same therapist twice in her life under very different circumstances.
A young woman helps find a suitable spouse for her male best friend in "Min".
In "World Party" a committee composed of peers must rule on the behavior of another professor.
During a summer retreat at "Fialta" student architects learn more about life than academics. 
The closing story, "Settlers," features close friends over several dinner parties, culminating in one unforgettable one.
All of these stories feature characters who are well educated. Many are involved in academia as students or professors. Lee's stories are all told from a first-person perspective as they delve into juxtaposed contrasting themes involving faithfulness, friendship, security, apathy, honesty, and relationships. The writing is richly descriptive and captures many nuances and layers of thought and meaning in each of the stories. Often it felt like what was at the edge of being said or revealed was looming over the seemingly everyday conversations between the characters.

In several cases, as I reached the end of a story I was filled with a sense of melancholy. The endings struck me as raw, unfinished, in a way because there was no definite conclusion, or, perhaps, overriding answer to some of the concerns of the characters or actions in the stories. It made each story sort of an exquisite little glimpse into only part of a life, never the whole.  This created a sort of a "little Match Girl" syndrome for me; I was seeing these glimpses of brilliance that ended too soon and I wanted more. The quandary is, naturally, that giving me more would not necessarily equate a better story.
very highly recommended
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill via Netgalley for review purposes.

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