The Unauthorized Biography of Michele Bachmann and Other Stories by Ken Brosky

The Unauthorized Biography of Michele Bachmann and Other Stories by Ken Brosky is a collection of short stories prefaced by a bit of background about each story in the collection, including his trio of “Dodge County” stories.  While this kind of preface can be enlightening or amusing, this one just seems unnecessary given the powerful stories beyond this “prologue.”  From surviving a car accident that takes the life of your best friend to surviving the loss of a new friend in Darfur, these stories are poignant and threatening.  They serve to demonstrate that loss can happen unexpectedly and can tear at you emotionally and physically.

“When you see your best friend’s neck snap back with all the force of three thousand pounds behind it before everything goes black, there are other bruises, too.  They hide under the skin, just out of sight, and they take longer to heal.” (“The Third Pile,” page 50)

Some of these tales of survival border on the surreal, such as the arrival of the horseman of the apocalypse or a man deciding his future based on how many virtual deer are killed in a video game.  Beyond the theme of survival, the collection also touches upon the theme of carpe diem — to stop waiting for something to happen or your fortunes to change — and take a risk.  Each story is narrated by the first person, but the narrators are not the same, though they are similar in humor.  Some narrators are harsh in their machismo, while others are self-deprecating about their accomplishments and talents.  Brosky offers a variety of insecure male perspectives in these stories, which demonstrate how men cope with their insecurities. However, there are perspectives that are determined and secure in their convictions, no matter how unorthodox.  Another interesting aspect of these survival stories is the settings chosen from rural areas to urban Washington, D.C., and with a range of characters from artists to war veterans.

The Unauthorized Biography of Michele Bachmann and Other Stories by Ken Brosky brings to the fore the power of indecision and chaos in a way that forces each narrator to struggle and survive even when circumstances are not as they expect them to be nor as they want them to be.  Brosky’s prose is clipped at times, weaving stories in very few pages that leave a lasting impression.  In some cases the characters are not as well developed and appear to be mouthpieces talking to the reader, although there is one essay with a satiric bent in which that is to be expected.  Some stories leave their marks better than others, but overall, it is a satisfying look at survival in a number of different situations.

About the Author:

Ken Brosky was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and received his bachelor’s degree in creative writing from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He received his MFA from the University of Nebraska-Omaha and currently teaches English at various colleges in the Madison-Milwaukee area. He’s currently averaging 3 short story publications per year and wants to keep it that way.




Additionally, this is a stop on The Literary Road Trip since some of these stories take place in/near Washington, D.C.



This is my 14th book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.

Guest Post: Researching a Story by Ken Brosky

Ken Brosky’s book, The Unauthorized Biography of Michele Bachmann and Other Stories, is a collection of stories about survival whether it is a white man lost in Darfur or an Iraq war veteran with one leg.  The collection has a certain wit about it and the writing is expected to make readers think about survival and all that it entails.

Today, Ken is going to regale us with his expertise on researching a story.  So please give him a warm welcome.

When I was compiling my short stories for my first collection, I noticed that a number of them were examples of what I call “writing outside your box.” I’ve never been a phone hacker. I’ve never visited the region of Darfur. I’m not an Iraq War veteran. But regardless, the stories involving these various scenarios have all received a warm reception from readers and critics alike.

“Writing outside your box” isn’t anything new, but nowadays in literary fiction there really aren’t that many writers daring themselves to step away from their own lives and try something alien and unfamiliar. The old saying “write what you know” probably stops writers short when it comes to this. But there’s not a hypocrisy here, provided writers take the time to research the topic they’re going to incorporate into a story.

For example, my award-winning short story “I Can’t Just Turn it Off,” features an Iraq War Veteran who returns after losing a leg in an I.E.D. explosion. The story was originally published in Gargoyle Magazine and contains a fair bit of fiction given that I’ve never been to Iraq. So how did I put it together?

First, I talked to a veteran. His stories and experiences jump-started the writing process and sent my imagination into overdrive. After I’d established what I wanted out of the overall story, I began researching. I looked up I.E.D. details. I watched and read interviews with veterans. I research PTSD. I was also inspired by a very touching warts-and-all first-person account of a soldier who realized just how much the war had changed him and was disgusted by it.

All of this made for a better story, even though 99 percent of it wasn’t used in the final draft. The research became more of a guiding force, and it was all inspired by a single conversation with an Iraq War veteran.

I remember while in my MFA program, I’d accidentally convinced my workshop class that I’d worked in a video store. They were convinced, reading one of my short stories, that I had some experience renting out DVD’s and VHS tapes. I didn’t. What I’d done was fool them well enough that they were able to get lost in the story and accept the details I was providing them. I did it mainly through research: I spent time inside my favorite video store. I talked to the owner constantly. I wandered the aisles, picking up the smells and the sights. I even spied on the employees as they went out and restocked recently returned videos!

Here’s another example: “Gojira: King of the Monsters” by Jim Shepard is one of the best short stories I’ve read in a long time. It re-energized my writing habits and challenged me to dig even deeper while researching for stories. “Gojira” is a fictional story about the man who designed the Godzilla costume for the original movie. The details are amazing, right down to the director’s frustrations and the methods used to destroy the mini-Tokyo set. Beyond that, it’s also a story about the bombing of Hiroshima, and how important that all-too-familiar monster really was to an entire society.

Research like this takes practice. It takes patience. But one of the best gifts a writer can provide to readers is the gift of escape, and taking readers to new and exciting places is a fantastic thing … provided the writer does some research first.

Thanks, Ken. Stay tuned for my review of this collection.

Mailbox Monday #161

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. This month’s host is the At Home With Books.

Kristi of The Story Siren continues to sponsor her In My Mailbox meme.

Both of these memes allow bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received this week:

1.  The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy, which I received for my TLC Tour stop in March.

2.  Vampire Knits by Genevieve Miller, which came unsolicited from Random House.

These I won from BookHounds and some of these will find homes with my mother (who just loves mystery novels) and some other friends:

3. Fadeaway Girl by Martha Grimes

4. Day by Day Armageddon Beyond Exile by J.L. Bourne

5. The Rock Hole by Reavis Wortham

6. Bet Your Bones by Jeanne Matthews

7. Swift Justice by Laura DiSilverio

8. Electric Barracuda by Tim Dorsey

9. Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward

10. Dracula in Love by Karen Essex

11. Knit Two by Kate Jacobs

BACK to the review copies and the book buys from the weekend:

12. The Unauthorized Biography of Michele Bachman by Ken Brosky

13. The Three Colonels by Jack Caldwell for review from Sourcebooks

14. Mr. Darcy Forever by Victoria Connelly for review from Sourcebooks

15. Catalina by Laurie Soriano for consideration in the Indie Lit Awards Poetry category

16. If I Die in a Combat Zone by Tim O’Brien, which I bought at the book club meeting at Novel Places for $1.50 to complete by collection of O’Brien books.

17. The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore, which I also bought at the book club meeting at Novel Places for $1.99 because I loved this book when I first read it and want my own copy.

18. Definitely Not Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos, which I also bought at the book club meeting, since Anna told me it was hilarious.

What did you receive this week?