I took this collection (and my Kindle) with me to the gym recently. I was intending to warm up on the treadmill before heading out on my long run, but I ended up completing my miles and this collection in one long session on the treadmill in the corner of my gym. Initially, I was just going to read "The Phreaks," but then I had to read "On the Tenth Day, I Kept It Down," and then, as the miles piled up, so did the stories, and so, too, did my admiration for this writer.
Brosky's collection of short stories showcases an impressive range of voices, situations, and locales, but he is careful not to let his technique overwhelm his narratives. Many of his stories have a "timely" element to them - Darfur, workplace layoffs, a non-fiction essay on Amazon.com, the collection's title references Michele Bachmann - but Brosky doesn't rely on news items to make his writing relevant. It is the narrators, themselves, who carry each story. This can be a risky move, since some of Brosky's narrators are quite prickly, but it's one I'm glad he took.
Though the collection should be read as a whole - it even has intermissions which became literal water breaks for me (my legs thank you, Ken Brosky) - there were a few stories that hit me more personally. The "Dodge County Trilogy" was a favorite of mine. I recently moved from Milwaukee, Wisconsin after having lived there for six years, and these three stories were hugely evocative of both the state itself, but also some of the people that I knew while living in the area. The trilogy brought me right back to the dark and the cold and the boredom and the beer and the winter malaise that can come from living in one of the northernmost states. Brosky also nails the little details: the diners, the flat farmlands, full-sugar Coca-Cola drinking(!!!). "One in Six," the final story in the trilogy, is particularly good, as Brosky proves that male friendships can be written with both curse words *and* emotional depth.
The title story in the collection was a welcome surprise. The narrator of "The Unauthorized Biography of Michele Bachmann" has nuanced view of marriage and infidelity that I didn't expect he'd have. Again, it was a good example of the Brosky's narrative range and depth.
Finally, "Positivity Squares" was a particularly resonant story for me. In his introduction, Brosky mentions that he names the hero of the story "Mike" after one of his favorite customers, who has since died of cancer. The story is funny and angry, resigned and ironic, but there's love there, too. I think it's Brosky's best and the perfect way to end the collection. It's the one I've read repeatedly.
So, yes, you want to buy this book, and not just because Brosky somehow figured out how to vote for both Barack Obama AND John McCain.