The Cat’s Meow
Bobcat and Other Stories, Rebecca Lee's collection of smartly absurd realism vignettes set in American academia.

Rebecca Lee’s stories are the kind of pieces I wish were around when I was in college so I could have been introduced to more intellectual short fiction early on. The Bobcat series open up a window of genre stories that are just beyond the hotly-coined “New Adult” set where the characters here are older, they (mostly) have found a footing in their world, and are learning to deal with dramas that come with later adulthood. Lee’s protagonists tread on absurd realism in decidedly contemporary academic environments and upper-middle class situations. First World problems or bust.

Of her seven stories in Bobcat, most of them revolve around the lives of professors and students; they navigate around campus, they visit their therapist, or they’re unsuspecting choreographed players in orchestrated dinner parties. But moments in Lee’s stories take us back in time and abroad too, like when a Polish professor is subconsciously forced to revisit his childhood under a Soviet regime, or when an American girl travels to Hong Kong in the late ’80s to observe the process of an arranged marriage that involves her Chinese male best friend.

Rebecca Lee is an intelligent writer and it shows. In fact, some of the stories felt too smart for me when I wasn’t ready for the density — I prefer my stories on the fluffier side — but there are also these incredible minutes where absurdity is inserted so left-field that you might find yourself laughing uncomfortably and thinking, “Whoa this is weird shit.” Like, remember that episode in Mad Men when that guy’s foot is accidentally shredded by a running lawnmower in the office? The book’s title Bobcat, in case you’re wondering, comes from an anecdote in the first short story (also named “Bobcat”) where an armless dinner guest mentions that one of her limbs was bitten off by a bobcat when she was traveling in Nepal.