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The Stories of Richard Bausch

The Stories of Richard Bausch

3.5 2
by Richard Bausch

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A 2004 PEN/Malamud Award winner, this collection celebrates the work of American artist Richard Bausch -- a writer the New York Times calls "a master of the short story." By turns tender, raw, heartbreaking, and riotously funny, the many voices of this definitive forty-two-story collection (seven of which appear here for the first time) defy expectation,


A 2004 PEN/Malamud Award winner, this collection celebrates the work of American artist Richard Bausch -- a writer the New York Times calls "a master of the short story." By turns tender, raw, heartbreaking, and riotously funny, the many voices of this definitive forty-two-story collection (seven of which appear here for the first time) defy expectation, attest to Bausch's remarkable range and versatility, and affirm his place alongside such acclaimed story writers as John Cheever, Flannery O'Connor, Raymond Carver, and Grace Paley.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Failure and its exactions -- this is Bausch's big subject. These 42 stories test the play of hope and disappointment in the lives of spouses and lovers, of parents and children and siblings. And while Bausch does in several instances write with insight and authority from a woman's perspective, it is the sons, fathers and husbands in their daily trials that he registers most memorably. Indeed, so alive are these characters, with their credible flaws, their complaints and loud excitements, that closing the book feels like pushing the door shut on some clamorous party. There is much life being confided here, and much personal urgency, and Bausch has the timing and the moves to pull us in. — Sven Birkerts
Library Journal
In a brief preface to this collection, Bausch acknowledges his debt to the great story writers who preceded him. His goal, he says, is not to subvert or reinvent the genre but to emulate the masters. Readers will find no irony, pop cultural references, or brand names here-Bausch's characters are mainly blue-collar types struggling to survive in suburban Virginia. The pace of life is slow, but disaster is just around the corner. Most of these stories are fairly well known, e.g., "Valor," in which a man who spent the night in a bar saves lives when a school bus crashes outside, and "The Person I Have Mostly Become," in which a father's attempts to bond with his son backfire repeatedly. Though Bausch has written several novels, including Hello to the Cannibals, his talents are much better suited to the shorter form. While this is a strong selection of his best work, it still isn't in the same league as the early Updike stories, for example. There's a hint of academic exercise to these efforts, and Bausch doesn't try to push the boundaries. Recommended for most fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/03.]-Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A fine, fat collection of 42 tales, drawn mostly from the critically acclaimed author's several earlier volumes. Bausch is a realist with a pronounced interest in domestic subjects, whose best stories are distinguished by characters whose complexity is simply and economically suggested, convincingly "natural" dialogue, and a heartfelt sense of time and opportunity passing and lives changing. His weaknesses are an occasional slightness (in nothing-much-here stories like "1951," "Letter to the Lady of the House," and "Evening") and unoriginality ("Fatality," in which a father decisively confronts his daughter's physically abusive husband, is very similar to a celebrated Andre Dubus story). But Bausch's considerable gifts for strong focus and compassion breathe troublingly real life into his analyses of estrangement and unrequited or rejected spousal and filial love ("Police Dreams," "Weather," "Luck"), incompatibility and adultery ("The Eyes of Love," "High-Heeled Shoe"), and self-loathing ("The Person I Have Mostly Become," a powerhouse portrayal of a divorced single father, burdened with numerous resentments, who makes his young son the helpless object of his anger). Other superior examples of his understanding of people misunderstanding themselves are "Tandolfo the Great," a professional clown who takes out his romantic frustrations on the child at whose birthday party he performs, and "The Fireman's Wife," who finds in her often absent-from-home husband's family a comforting and infectious stoicism and stability. Many other Bausch stories are unusual in their concentration on people who persevere and surmount separation, dejection, and grief-like the young woman of "Aren't You Happy forMe?," delighted to be pregnant by her 63-year-old fiancé; the young priest (of "Design") who finds his vocation in the example set by a tireless elderly clergyman; and the unlikely hero (of "Valor") who discovers his manhood comforting victims of a school-bus accident. This is the book for which Bausch will be remembered.
Village Voice
“Precision of thought, the philosophical framework of a true aesthetic, pervades these stories.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch
“A literary treasure.”
Entertainment Weekly
Grade: ‘A’ “Read just a few of these staggeringly literate and well-observed short fictions and you’ll soon realize that it’s not only God who dwells in the details.”
Boston Herald
“A memorable collection.”
Seattle Times
“Bausch draws the reader into lives that seem real. His characters look and sound like ... ourselves.”
New York Times Book Review
“Richard Bausch is a master of the short story.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Bausch [is] a magical storyteller.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Beautiful ... a delight to read.”
Raleigh News & Observer
“Bausch writes about things that matter.”
Boston Globe
“Perfection … many deserve inclusion among the best American stories of the past 20 years.”
Charlotte Observer
“A master storyteller at his finest.”
Andrea Barrett
“Richard Bausch is, simply, one of our greatest short story writers.”
Robert Olen Butler
“No writer has a finer insight into the delicate nuances of the human heart than Richard Bausch.”

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The Stories of Richard Bausch

Nobody In Hollywood

I was pummeled as a teenager. For some reason I had the sort of face that asked to be punched. It seemed to me in those days that everybody wanted to take a turn. Something about the curve of my mouth, I guess. It made me look like I was being cute with people, smirking at them. I am what is called a late life child. My brother, Doke, is twenty years older and played semipro football. But by the time I came along, Doke was through as a ballplayer and my father had given up on ever seeing a son play pro. I was a month premature, and very, very tiny as a child. Dad named me Ignatius, after an uncle of his that I never knew. Of course I didn't take to sports, though I could run pretty fast (that comes with having a face people want to hit). I liked to read; I was the family bookworm. I'm four feet nine inches tall.

Doke married young, divorced young, and had a son, Doke Jr., that the wife took with her to Montana. But Doke missed the boy and went out there to be near him, and when I graduated from high school, he invited me for a visit. That's how I ended up in Montana in 1971. I'd gone to spend the summer with Doke, in a hunter's cabin up in the mountains. It was a little cottage, with a big stone hearth and knotty-pine paneling and color photos of the surrounding country. On the shelf above the hearth were some basketball trophies belonging to the guy who owned the place, a former college allstar now working as an ophthalmologist down in Dutton.

Doke taught me how to fly-fish. A fly rod had a lot of importance to Doke, as if being good with the thing was a key to the meaning of life or something. He had an image of himself, standing in sunlight, fly rod in hand. He was mystical about the enterprise, though he didn't really have much ability.

While I was staying with Doke, I met Hildie, my eventual ex-wife. She was a nurse in the hospital where Doke took me the night I met his new girlfriend, Samantha. I met Samantha about two hours before I met Hildie.

Samantha had come home to Montana from San Francisco, where she'd been with her crazy mother. Before I met her -- many days before -- Doke had talked about her, about how beautiful and sexy she was. According to Doke, I just wasn't going to believe my eyes. He'd met her in a bar he used to frequent after working construction all day in Dutton. She was only twenty-five. He told me all about her, day after day. We were drinking pretty heavy in the evenings, and he'd tell me about what she had gone through in her life.

"She's so beautiful to have to go through that stuff," he said, "suicide and insanity and abuse. A lot of abuse. She's part Indian. She's had hard times. Her father was a full-blooded Cherokee. She's a genius. He killed himself. Then her mother went crazy, and they put her in this institution for the insane over in San Francisco. Her mother doesn't know her own name anymore. Or Samantha's. Pathetic, really. Think about it. And she looks like a goddess. I can't even find the words for it. Beautiful. Nobody in the world. Not even Hollywood."

At the time, I was worried about getting drafted into the army and was under a lot of stress. They were drafting everybody back then, and I was worried. I didn't want to hear about Doke's beautiful girlfriend. "Man," he said, "I wish I had her picture -- a snapshot of her -- so I could show you. But the Indian blood means she has this thing about having her picture taken. Like it steals part of her soul. They all believe that."

He was talking about her the night she arrived, the traveling she'd done when she was a back-dancer for the Rolling Stones ("She knows Mick Jagger, man") and the heavy things she'd seen -- abused children and illicit drugs and alcohol -- and also the positions she liked during sex, and the various ways they had of doing it together.

"She's an Indian," he said. "They have all kinds of weird ways."

"Could we go out on the porch or something?" I said.

He hadn't heard me. "She wears a headband. It expresses her people. When she was six her mother went crazy the first time. A white woman, the mother, right? This poor girl from Connecticut with no idea what she was getting into, marrying this guy, coming out here to live, almost like a pioneer. Only the guy turned out to be a wild man. They lived on the reservation, and nobody else wanted anything to do with them because of how he was. A true primitive, but a noble one, too. You should hear Samantha talk about him. He used to take her everywhere, and he had this crazy thing about rock concerts. Like they were from the old days of the tribe, see. He'd go and dance and get really drunk. Samantha went with him until she was in her teens. She actually has a daughter from when they traveled with the Rolling Stones. The daughter's staying with her mother's sister back East. It's a hell of a story."

"She's only twenty-five?"

He nodded. "Had the daughter when she was seventeen."

"The Rolling Stones," I said. "Something."

"Don't give me that look," he said.

I smiled as big as I could ...

The Stories of Richard Bausch. Copyright © by Richard Bausch. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Robert Olen Butler
“No writer has a finer insight into the delicate nuances of the human heart than Richard Bausch.”
Andrea Barrett
“Richard Bausch is, simply, one of our greatest short story writers.”

Meet the Author

Richard Bausch is the author of nine other novels and seven volumes of short stories. His work has appeared in the New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Playboy, GQ, Harper's Magazine, and other publications, and has been featured in numerous best-of collections, including the O. Henry Awards' Best American Short Stories and New Stories from the South. In 2004 he won the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story.

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Stories of Richard Bausch 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
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