Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Short Story Wednesday-"Shiloh," Bobbie Ann Mason

 Having trouble putting up links. It may take a while.

"Shiloh" is the title story from Bobbie Ann Mason's first collection of stories published in 1982. The collection was nominated for many awards, winning some. And "Shiloh" is a perfect example of the world Mason would continue to write about. It was originally published in THE NEW YORKER.

Leroy and Norma Jean are a blue-collar couple living in western Kentucky. She works at a drugstore cosmetic counter and he drives a rig. Or he did until he got into an accident, making long drives impossible. Their problem is a common one: Norma Jean wants to improve herself and their life and Leroy is pretty much satisfied. His one dream is to make a log cabin house for them, a desire Norma Jean doesn't share. A baby, who died of SIDS, is in their past. A noisy mother-in-law hovers nearby finding fault with both of them. She talks a lot about a honeymoon trip she took to Shiloh, the Civil War battleground, and eventually talks them into going. It is there that Norma Jean tells Leroy she wants out. Leroy is not a bad man, he does have his own sort of dreams. But while Norma Jean is signing up for community ed courses, playing the piano, and taking a fitness class, Leroy just  drives around town and smokes pot.

Mason's writing is terrific. You never doubt these two people exist and their dilemma is a common one. What happens when one spouse outgrows the other. Near the end Leroy seems the problem, but doesn't have a clue about how to change it or himself.

Matt Paust

Jerry House 


Rick Robinson 

George Kelley 

Todd Mason


Jeff Meyerson said...

Good choice. I like Mason's writing, have read a number of her books (including this one).

I'm up to the Pat Hobby stories (which I've read before but don't remember) in the F. Scott Fitzgerald collection. Hobby is a 49 year old Hollywood scriptwriter, a hack who has been around since silent movies (this is 1940; the last few of these were published posthumously) and is trying to hang on with one pathetic scheme after another. They move quickly.

After your review last time, I am reading the Daniel Woodrell collection, THE OUTLAW ALBUM. You were right - "Uncle" is a tremendous story.

Margot Kinberg said...

Oh, this is one I haven't heard of before, Patti, I'll admit. It sounds great, though. I'm really glad you enjoyed it.

George said...

I remember reading Bobbie Ann Mason back in 1982 and thinking, "Wow, she's a wonderful writer!" Like Jeff, I've read a number of Bobbie Ann Mason's books over the years . Excellent review!

Rick Robinson said...

Interesting. From the title, I thought these would be stories set during the Civil War, but it seems not. Still, more than one comment about how good the writing is may tempt me. I wish our library hadn't just shut down again.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I do need to read FSF stories again. It's probably been forty years.