Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Bad Kansas

Bad Kansas by Becky Mandelbaum
University of Georgia Press: 9/15/17
eBook review copy; 176 pages
ISBN-13: 9780820351285

Bad Kansas: Stories by Becky Mandelbaum is a very highly recommended collection of eleven short stories. This collection is the well-deserved winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award for 2017.  

All of the stories use Kansas as a metaphor for dislocation and disconnection, as well as a location.  All of her characters are appealing and quirky as they deal with various relationships. Mandelbaum delves deep into their psyches and concerns with others as well as themselves.

There is no question that this is an exquisite collection of stories where every one of them is exceptionally well written.  At time poignant and other times humorous this is a masterful collection and likely portends great things to come in the future for Mandelbaum. The stories include: Kansas Boys; The Golden State; A Million and One Marthas; Go On, Eat Your Heart Out; The House on Alabama Street; Night of Indulgences; Stupid Girls; Thousand-Dollar Decoy; First Love; Queen of England; and Bald Bear.

Most of the stories are set in Lawrence, Kansas or nearby (hardly there) Vineland. This is worth noting because the city is very much used as a place and a recognizable character in the stories. Since it is also currently my home, I recognize many of the places, streets etc., if only by name/reputation. If anyone attended the University of Kansas, they will also likely have a more memory-laden recall of various areas where students tend to congregate. Yet again, I don't think Kansas is all that bad, and most certainly Lawrence is hardly representative of the state, but it seems the state is doomed to be an example of a bad place to live.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of the University of Georgia Press.

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