Bobbie Ann Mason
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With four siblings Mason grew up on her family's dairy farm outside of Mayfield, Kentucky. As a child she loved to read, so her parents, Wilburn and Christina Mason, always made sure she had books. These books were mostly popular fiction about the Bobbsey Twins and the Nancy Drew mysteries. She would later write a book about these books she read in adolescence titled The Girl Sleuth: A feminist guide to the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, and Their Sisters.
After high school, Mason went on to major in English at the University of Kentucky. After graduating in 1962, she took several jobs in New York City with various movie magazines, writing articles about various stars who were in the spotlight. She wrote about Annette Funicello, Troy Donahue, Fabian, and other teen stars. She earned her master's degree at the State University of New York at Binghamton in 1966. Next she went to graduate school at the University of Connecticut, where she subsequently received her Ph.D. in literature with a dissertation on Vladimir Nabokov's Ada in 1972. Her dissertation was published in paperback form as Nabokov's Garden two years later.
By the time she was in her late thirties, Bobbie Ann started to write short stories. In 1980 The New Yorker published her first story. "It took me a long time to discover my material", she said. "It wasn't a matter of developing writing skills, it was a matter of knowing how to see things. And it took me a very long time to grow up. I'd been writing for a long time, but was never able to see what there was to write about. I always aspired to things away from home, so it took me a long time to look back at home and realize that that's where the center of my thought was." Mason writes about the working-class people of Western Kentucky, and her short stories have contributed to a renaissance of regional fiction in America creating a literary style that critics have labeled "shopping mall realism."
Mason then went on to write a collection of short stories, Shiloh and Other Stories. In 1985 she wrote her first novel, In Country, which eventually was made into a feature film (see below). She followed In Country with another novel in 1988, Spence and Lila. She has since published several more short story collections (see below). In 2016, Mason became the second living author to be inducted into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame.
Works and awards overview
Mason's dissertation, a critique of Vladimir Nabokov's Ada or Ardor, was published in 1974. A year later, she published The Girl Sleuth, a feminist assessment of Nancy Drew, the Bobbsey Twins, and other fictional girl detectives. Mason's first volume of short stories, Shiloh and Other Stories, appeared in 1982 and won the 1983 Ernest Hemingway Foundation Award for outstanding first works of fiction. Mason's novel In Country is often cited as one of the seminal literary works of the 1980s. Its protagonist attempts to come to terms with a number of important generational issues, ranging from the Vietnam War to consumer culture. A film version was produced in 1989, starring Emily Lloyd as the protagonist and Bruce Willis as her uncle.
Her short stories have appeared in numerous magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly, Mother Jones, The New Yorker, and The Paris Review. Mason has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is currently the writer in residence at the University of Kentucky. Her short story Wish appears in The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women.
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Bobbie Ann Mason
|By Bobbie Ann Mason|
Short story collections:
- Shiloh and Other Stories (1982)
- Love Life. Harper & Row, New York (1989)
- Midnight Magic (1998)
- Zigzagging Down a Wild Trail (2002)
- Nancy Culpepper (2006)
- In Country (1985)
- Spence and Lila (1988)
- Feather Crowns (1993)
- An Atomic Romance (2005)
- The Girl in the Blue Beret (2011)
- Elvis Presley (2002)
- Nabokov's Garden (1974)
- The Girl Sleuth: A Feminist Guide (1975)
- PEN/Hemingway Award, 1983
- National Endowment for the Arts award, 1983
- Pennsylvania Arts Council grant, 1983, 1989
- Guggenheim Fellowship, 1984
- Kentucky Governor's Award in the Arts, 2012
- Conarroe, Joel (15 September 1985), "Winning Her Father's War", New York Times, retrieved 18 March 2016
- Eblen, Tom (2 January 2016). "Bobbie Ann Mason named to Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame". Lexington Herald-Leader. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
- Price, Johanna, Understanding Bobbie Ann Mason, University of South Carolina Press, 2000
- "Understanding" review by Barbara Marshall