Bobbie Ann Mason

Listen Here This Week: Bobbie Ann Mason and Bernard Malamud

The Listen Here! Short Story Reading Series rolls into its 3rd week with readings at Bru Cafe, 141 Orange, Street, this Tuesday, March 23, at 7 p.m. Our theme? “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do”

Our stories? Bobbie Ann Mason's "Shiloh" and Bernard Malamud's "The Jewbird"

Why these?

Two great writers, masters, in particular, of the short story: what could go wrong?

For those who don't know Bobbie Ann Mason...shame on you!  One of America's best short story writers, she offers in "Shiloh" a quietly moving meditation on what breaking up is really like: that onerous sense that not all is right in the world, often sneaking up on us before we know it.  Two lovers look at one another and, lo and behold, they're strangers.  And then there's the story title.  Wikipedia describes the Civil War battle at Shiloh as follows: "The Confederates achieved considerable success on the first day but were ultimately defeated on the second day."  If that's not a good description of breaking up, then I don't know what is.

Malamud's "The Jewbird" was one of my favorite stories as a kid and remains so to this day.  It's Malamud at his magic realist best, taking the "Jewish problem" and realizing its substance in a way that few works of "straight" fiction do. In many ways, it reminds one of the trickster tales of Native American legend, of coyote who knows things all too well, and yet all of this with a distinctly Jewish twist, featuring equal parts cynicism leavened by wisdom and  hope threatened byour failure to understand, really understand.