Uncategorized | December 02, 2004

The short stories of Bobbie Ann Mason became closely linked with the phrase “K-Mart Realism” when they first appeared in the early 1980s. But, as Mason states in an interview first published in The Missouri Review 23:1 (2000), her work cannot be so easily reduced. We present, for the first time on our website, the interview in its entirety.

Mason’s short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s and the Paris Review, among others. Her published fiction includes three novels: In Country (1985), Spence + Lila (1988) and Feather Crowns (1993), along with three short story collections: Shiloh and Other Stories (1982), Love Life (1989), and Zigzagging Down a Wild Trail: Stories (2001). In 2000, she published Clear Springs: A Family Story, a memoir that examines her family’s rural Kentucky roots. She has been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the American Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Fiction Award. Her other honors include the Southern Book Award, the Ernest Hemingway Foundation Award for best first fiction, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pennsylvania Arts Council. She lives and writes in Kentucky.


Mason: I don’t think of myself as the K-mart realist. I hope that what I’m trying to do is more than document patterns of discount shopping in the late twentieth century! Many teachers and scholars seem primarily concerned with themes and ideas, but that’s not the way I think. If that was what I was after, I’d write a term paper. I think more in terms of literal details and images, as well as sound and tone—all the textures that bring a story to life. Sometimes it seems I’m working mostly with sounds and rhythms, the voice in my head. I write a story over and over until it sounds right. If it works, then the themes will be there. I don’t plant them.