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.
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.
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.
“Precision of thought, the philosophical framework of a true aesthetic, pervades these stories.”
“A literary treasure.”
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.”
“A memorable collection.”
“Bausch draws the reader into lives that seem real. His characters look and sound like ... ourselves.”
“Richard Bausch is a master of the short story.”
New York Times Book Review
“Bausch [is] a magical storyteller.”
“Beautiful ... a delight to read.”
“Bausch writes about things that matter.”
“Perfection … many deserve inclusion among the best American stories of the past 20 years.”
“A master storyteller at his finest.”
“Richard Bausch is, simply, one of our greatest short story writers.”
“No writer has a finer insight into the delicate nuances of the human heart than Richard Bausch.”