April 08, 2014
I am deeply enamored of Bobcat and Other Stories by Rebecca Lee right now. I am savoring it, reading a story at a time, with pauses in between to read other short stories. This also yields some perspective, proving over and over that Bobcat and Other Stories is as good as I keep thinking it is. I picked it up blind at the library simply because it was a short story collection, which I often do, figuring short story collections are hard enough to get published that the ones that are have to be pretty good. This heuristic mostly yields a good read, but in this case, it is better than good. I was astonished by the first story, by its well-crafted thoughtfulness; this must be an important writer, I thought, someone old and established like Munro who I’ve somehow missed until now. Someone erudite and intimidating, independently wealthy probably, who doesn’t have to struggle to find time or money to write. This was how the voice in the first story made me feel. When it was over I googled the author and saw how wrong I was: the author is not a mirror image of that voice. In fact, she is not that much older than me, teaching and writing, writing and teaching, working to write like most of us. The power of her stories is even more mysterious now. The next story was very different than the first but nearly as compelling, and the ones after that are even more different and more compelling. The voice in every story is so unique, and yet, so far at least (I’m almost finished), they’re all written in the first person. The stories are long, and you don’t know what will happen next, but it is the insights and observations threading through them that make me admire them so much. This is the kind of writing that on the inhale makes you despair of ever writing that well, and on the exhale compels you to keep trying.
Katherine Forbes Riley is a linguist and a mother of two. She lives and works in northern New England. Her academic articles have appeared in numerous peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings. Her creative writing has been published by Akashic Books.