Bobbie Ann Mason 1940–
American short story writer and critic.
Shiloh and Other Stories (1982), Mason's first fictional collection, is set in rural Paducah, Kentucky, where she grew up. The sixteen stories in Shiloh depict a changing South, a world in which characters must reconcile elements of the past, represented by the older generation, with the present. Mason's characters are introduced to the modern world primarily through television. She uses such concrete details as brand names to illustrate the effects of mass culture on the society she portrays, and many of her working-class characters are employed in chain stores rather than on farms or in family businesses. The intrusion of the present into the lives of Mason's people creates not only commercial and material changes, but also more threatening changes in societal mores. Several of the stories concern married couples who are divorced or separated; progress places the same strain on family relationships in Paducah as it does elsewhere.
Critical reaction to Shiloh has been overwhelmingly positive. Mason has been applauded especially for her skillful rendering of a language rich in Southern regionalisms and her often humorous dialogue, both of which help to bring her characters to life. Some critics have commented, however, that Mason's stories are weakened by the same lack of aim or resolution which characterizes much of modern fiction.
Mason has also published two works of literary criticism: Nabokov's Garden: A Guide to Ada (1974) and The Girl Sleuth: A Feminist Guide (1975), which explores and evaluates series fiction written for girls.
(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 53-56 and Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 11.)