At turns heartbreaking and wise, tender and wry, Bobcat and Other Stories establishes Rebecca Lee as one of the most powerful and original voices in Canadian literature.
A university student on her summer abroad is offered the unusual task of arranging a friend's marriage. Secret infidelities and one guest's dubious bobcat-related injury propel a Manhattan dinner party to its unexpected conclusion. Students at an elite architecture retreat seek the wisdom of their revered mentor but end up learning more about themselves and one another than about their shared craft.
In these acutely observed and scaldingly honest stories Lee gives us characters who are complex and flawed, cracking open their fragile beliefs and exposing the paradoxes that lie within their romantic and intellectual pursuits. Whether they're in the countryside of the American Midwest, on a dusty prairie road in Saskatchewan, or among the skyscrapers and voluptuous hills of Hong Kong, the terrain is never as difficult to navigate as their own histories and desires.
About the author
Rebecca Lee is the author of the critically acclaimed novel The City Is a Rising Tide and the short story collection Bobcat And Other Stories. She has been published in The Atlantic and Zoetrope, and in 2001 she received a National Magazine Award for her short fiction. Originally from Saskatchewan, Lee is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and is now a professor of creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
Alternately poignant, searingly intelligent, and laugh-out-loud funny, the stories in Rebecca Lee’s Bobcat will have you torn between two impulses: the impulse to reread an exquisite sentence again and again, in order to appreciate its clear, sharp prose and surprising imagery, and the impulse to race ahead, eager to find out what happens next. - Johanna Skibsrud, Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning author of The Sentimentalists
Bobcat and Other Stories is nothing short of brilliant. Rebecca Lee writes with the unflinching, cumulatively devastating precision of Chekhov and Munro, peeling back layer after layer of illusion until we're left with the truth of ourselves. Practically every line is a revelation of language, of character, of experience; Lee's lyricism stalks our hearts like a gorgeous assassin. This extraordinary story collection is sure to confirm its author as one of the best writers of her generation. - Ben Fountain, author of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara
“Rebecca Lee's unforgettable debut story collection, "Bobcat," manages to be both heartwarming and heartbreaking, not to mention witty and wise. I was so thoroughly immersed in these universes, so glad to meet her characters, these inquisitive, open-hearted citizens of the world, that I did not want the book to end.” - Jami Attenberg, author of The Middlesteins
“They are all centered on unique and arresting set-pieces and showcase astonishing prose…Lee writes with an unflinching eye toward the darkest and saddest aspects of life, often finding humor where least expected. This fresh, provocative collection, peerless in its vehement elucidation of contemporary foibles, is not to be missed.” - Publishers Weekly
“Lee, herself like a great cat in her stealth, speed, and slashing attacks, takes on academe in several mind-whirling stories…Lee’s gorgeously crafted, scintillating stories are imaginative and incisive, funny and profound.” - Booklist
“The collection has so many good passages – whole paragraphs that move into pages with never a misstep – that any linguaphile could spend a great afternoon in a little spasm of dazzle. But a story is more than a collection of words, and these seven long tales demonstrate Lee’s prodigious talent for creating not just great lines but intricately structured, impressively plotted worlds.” - New York Times Book Review
“Sometimes you reach the end of a story and go quietly, ‘Oh.’ And sometimes you gasp and go, ‘Holy guacamole!’ Not because a building fell down or a character died, but because the unexpected yet completely understandable came to pass—and made you fall off your chair. Again and again this happens in Rebecca Lee's slim, sly, brilliant book Bobcat.” - Oprah.com
"Lee's short stories pack a punch … Every story demonstrates Lee's keen sensibility and amazing sense of humour." - Toronto Life
“Rebecca Lee is a great writer, and this is a great collection, so alive to itself that it made my skin buzz. Most stories are domesticated, pacing along step by step, but Lee's roam and dart like wild things and yet somehow wind up exactly where they intended to go. They are ardent, wayward, vigilant, heartbreaking, and, amidst all the trouble they explore, mysteriously funny.” - Kevin Brockmeier, author of The Brief History of the Dead
A promising collection of storieshttp://www.cozylittlebookjournal.com/2012/05/bobcat-and-other-stories-by-rebecca-lee.html
Rebecca Lee's six short first-person narratives are not necessarily interconnected--each story stands on its own without overlapping characters--but they each traverse the same familiar grounds. Academia--from campuses to classrooms to student retreats and even literati dinners--factors heavily in each of these tales. It's not surprising that, given the author is a professor of creative writing, she would write about the world most familiar to her.
It is precisely in this familiar territory that Rebecca Lee most shines. In the first story, "Bobcat" (by far my favourite), the author describes with delicious detail the interactions of a group of writers, editors and lawyers making their way through an evening of food and wine while trying to suss out the truth behind one writer's supposed memoir of a bobcat attack. The dialogue feels authentic and the characters are sufficiently realized while still leaving some space for the reader to fill in the blanks. Not much space, perhaps, but some.
If I had one criticism it's that some of the other stories aren't given as much breathing room. The narrator--who could be the same person in each story if there didn't appear to be a gender switch in the last one, so identical is the tone and style in all six stories--is very self-reflexive, sometimes painfully so. The narrator is aware of her own motives, the motives of others, her own flaws, the consequences of her actions and the effects of the actions of others. She is an academic, through and through, and as such the reader is left little to interpret.
I'll be excited to read Rebecca Lee in the future. Bobcat and Other Stories certainly gave me enough for me to be interested in her talent and her voice. I only hope that in the future Rebecca Lee may allow herself to step back from her characters, let them be oblivious sometimes, let them be irrational or emotional, and trust that her readers will fill in the space left behind.
For more reviews, please visit my blog, CozyLittleBookJournal.
Disclaimer: I received a free advanced copy of this title from the publisher, Penguin Canada, for promotional purposes. I was asked to write and share an honest review, though it was not required to be positive or favourable. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.