Lee, Michael 1946-
LEE, Michael 1946-
PERSONAL: Born 1946. Education: Miami-Dade Junior College, A.A. (journalism); University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, B.A.; Emerson College, M.F.A. (writing).
CAREER: Journalist and author of fiction. Miami Magazine, editor; Cape Codder, columnist; Cape Cod Voice, senior editor; freelance writer. Worked variously as a deep-sea diver, cook, shell fisherman, construction worker, shrimp peeler, and teacher. Military service: U.S. Marine Corps; stationed at Khe Sanh, Vietnam.
Paradise Dance, Leapfrog Press (Wellfleet, MA), 2002.
Short stories have appeared in Yale Review, Potpourri, Writer's Digest, Northeast Magazine, Boston Herald, and Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine. Contributor of articles to Stars and Stripes, Framingham News, Cape Cod Times, and Cape Codder.
SIDELIGHTS: Over the years, Michael Lee has seen the world through the eyes of a soldier and cook, a writer and fisherman, a deep-sea diver and teacher. From these different positions in life, he has gained a broad vision of life. It is from this vantage point that he is able to understand and write stories about a wide range of personalities—people from various walks of life. He has read his short stories to New England audiences and published some of his writing in a number of literary publications over the past two decades. It was not, however, until 2002 that he brought together some of his best work to create the collection Paradise Dance, which a Kirkus Reviews writer proclaimed a "Solid work from a writer who should have been recognized long ago."
The stories in Paradise Dance are about the people of fictional Albright, Massachusetts, a mill town that has lost its focus. Time is all that the people of the town have left, and most of that time is spent in recalling the past. Lee's stories look deeply into what is left of the townspeople's lives. These people are quite ordinary, which makes them also universal. They are the backbone of the village: the mechanics, small business owners, teachers, waitresses, war vets, and local musicians. Their stories are set in the cemetery, the bars, the bedrooms, the golf course, and in the hospital. Their stories are imbued with themes of about abandoned hope and lost illusions. However, Lee's characters have not yet given up.
Lee's writing has been compared to that of short story writer Raymond Carver for its focus on the concerns of everyday people and for its barebones presentation. As a Publishers Weekly reviewer put it: "Lee offers a heady blend of compassion, razor-sharp wit, and well-honed storytelling skills." The stories range from serious issues to those that flirt with comedy. On the more solemn side is the story "Koza Nights," about a war veteran who is blackmailed by a fellow soldier, a man who knows that the vet murdered a prostitute while both men were on tour in Vietnam. In contrast, Lee offers his "Another Wonder of the World," in which he relates the details of a far-flung dream of several cohorts who meet at the local bar and plan the creation of an X-rated miniature golf course.
Most of Lee's characters are men who are not afraid to admit their weaknesses. Although Faye A. Chadwell for Library Journal admitted that the overall tone of Lee's stories are "decidedly masculine," she concluded that readers will in no way "succumb to a testosterone overdose." The stories are tough but the characters are sensitive. The people who live in Albright might be flawed, but as most reviewers have found, that just makes them all the more real.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2002, review of Paradise Dance, p. 759.
Library Journal, October 1, 2002, Faye A. Chadwell, review of Paradise Dance, p. 130.
Publishers Weekly, July 29, 2002, review of Paradise Dance, p. 54.*