Short Stories All the Time

My photo
... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Bausch. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bausch. Show all posts

26 March, 2016

Richard Bausch, "Police Dreams" and "Wise Men at Their End"

In "Wise Men at Their End," Theodore's son has died and the widow, Judy, has taken it upon herself to control his entire life. Unresolved relations with his other two sons. Next door hypochondriac Ben, and Alice, sweet lady friend foisted upon Theodore by Judy. Funny, poignant, sad, realistic about aging and coming to terms with aging without being an ass about it all the time.

"Police Dreams" begins with a dream where Casey feels powerless and the story ends with a dream in which Casey is powerful, in charge, and "He wins." We can only have what we really want in our dreams and/or self-fulfilling prophecy. Casey was so afraid of losing what made him so happy that he does indeed lose it. I love the title with "police" as a verb reminding us to police or watch or be careful of our dreams/nightmares. They might do us in.

Bausch skillfully probes his characters' emotional terrains. There is quite a bit of telling in his stories, scratching and picking at their scabs until we feel what makes them tick. He is one of my favorite authors. I often finish a story and turn right around and read it again and sometimes yet again. Every sentence is rich. I read somewhere that he wants every sentence to do at least two things. Well, he does and it works.

25 March, 2016

Richard Bausch, "What Feels Like the World"

I re-read this story today. It might be the saddest story I've ever read. Yet, it might also hold the key to knowing which type of personality can survive tremendous loss and feelings of inadequacy. Yet, after I say that I'm not sure Brenda feels inadequate. She knows she cannot do gymnastic vaults, but she does what is in her power to give it her best shot. I want to believe that she is going to come to the conclusion, that indeed, it is not important whether or not she can vault over the horse. She knows she's tried. For a fifth grader, she has tremendous discipline and wisdom. Her mother died a year earlier and her grandfather is raising her.

There are many instances of the grandfather revealing his emotional attachment to his granddaughter, "...stands there thinking his heart might break, lifting his hand to wave." Sometimes, it does seem that the children are the wiser age. "'Don't worry,' she tells him brightly. 'I still feel my surge of energy.'"

He tries to comfort her with saying that it's not that important and asks her if there is pressure. He knows there is even though she says no. "When she looks at him this time, he sees something scarily unchildlike in her expression, some perplexity that she seems to pull down into herself. 'It is too important,' she says."All in all, life is complex, confusing, and always challenging and that's just with the expectations we put on ourselves. Add in others' expectations and it gets complicated quickly.

The story is told in present tense and in 3rd person viewpoint, limited, of the grandfather. It's nearly 5,000 words long and was published in Bausch's collection, Spirits, and Other Stories in 1987.

17 February, 2016

Richard Bausch, "The Harp Department in Love"

Two musicians are married, the husband is thirty years older. He had quite a different upbringing than Josephine. Hers was peripatetic and rugged; his was coddled and luxurious. The story is about trust, lack of trust, and the anguish a person feels when they've been misunderstood by a loved one. "You're so wrong about me." Also, when someone jokes too much about a tender subject, how it can become unpleasantly true again, "has confirmed his perception of himself as one of the stops along her way. He used to joke about this in the first months they were together. It used to be a joke." The husband finally realizes that he's caused much of the anguish. "'And have I made it so you have to worry about everything so much?'" Once again, a wonderful story from Richard Bausch. "The Harp Department in Love" was first published by Narrative Magazine and then collected in Something is Out There in 2010.

27 December, 2011

Richard Bausch, "Blood"

"Blood" was first published in the online journal, Narrative Magazine. Walker infatuated and in love with his brother's wife, Jenny, and naturally, feelings and situations escalate until something tragic happens.

Bausch masterfully structures his stories. They always make a circle. In "Blood," Max fights a man over Jenny in the beginning of the story and his younger brother, Walker, beats another man named Bill near the end of the story. It is again about Jenny.

Two of their clients--Max and Walker own a contracting business--are actors who remain in character when Max and Walker are at their house. This couple is a motif for identity and pretending to be other than who he or she is.

There are places in the story where the POV shifts but it reads naturally and is not confusing but maybe it is more of an omniscient viewpoint.

"Blood" was included in the anthology, Something Is Out There, published in 2010.

"The catafalque, as Jenny calls it, sits there in the backyard, an enormous rib cage of wood amid scattered scraps and piles of packed-down sawdust."

Narrative Magazine web site
Richard Bausch's web site

28 July, 2011

Richard Bausch, "Overcast"

"Overcast" tells of Elaine's depression, recently divorced and lonely, and is mirrored in her mother's loneliness and divorce. The story is subtle and does not contain a lot of action but the sense of loneliness and isolation even as Elaine is among people is palpable.

This story is about 7,000 words and was first published in Narrative Magazine in the fall of 2009.

link to story at Narrative Magazine
Bausch bibliography at Narrative Magazine
review by Brian Keenan about collection, Something is Out There

27 July, 2011

Richard Bausch, "Immigration"

"Immigration" concerns a young, married couple. The husband, Michael, is from Ireland and he and Rita have an appointment the next morning at the Immigration Office where they will be expected to prove their marriage and love for one another. Tension mounts.

It's a poignant story and about 15 pages long with some shifts in POV. The time frame is from late at night until their early morning meeting.

"Immigration" was first published by the online journal, Narrative Magazine, and subsequently included in the collection, Something is Out There.

Narrative Magazine website

23 July, 2011

Richard Bausch, "Something is Out There"

Paula's husband Kent has been shot while he was on the roof putting up Christmas lights. Some details unwind as suspense builds; Paula and Dora and two young boys are stuck out in the middle of nowhere in a blizzard. And, the power goes out. A mysterious man appears at the door and the women seem to think it becomes clear that Kent and Paula's son, Christopher, are possibly involved in drug dealing. The story reminds me of how our imaginations can go wild and petrify us.

"Something is Out There" was first published in Murdaland, a crime fiction journal.

Murdaland website

17 July, 2011

Richard Bausch, "Two Altercations"

Michael and Ivy are on the drive home from work, in heavy traffic, and exhausted. Despite the fact that they have been married a short time, an acquaintance assumed they'd been married a long time. Ivy, thirty-three, wonders why she settled for Michael. Singing children in the car next to them that Ivy's cannot hear creates a visual of isolation and separation.

Ivy wonders if Michael is happy being married to her and as she recalls, he's always been somewhat remote. Then we find out that, indeed, Michael has been fantasizing about another woman.

The story began with gunfire and as the violence unfolds, we see Michael and Ivy's disintegration but the gunfire also causes Michael to reveal his core fault. He's a coward. He abandons his wife and he lies about it and makes excuses for himself. He's an unlikeable character.

Another masterpiece story by Richard Bausch. The story is written in a shifting third-person POV and is about 4,500 words. The story was first published by Ploughshares in 1996. (?)

online story

03 July, 2011

Richard Bausch, "Ancient History"

I've read this story before but read it again today and it is a good example of something Charles E. May mentions in his recent blog entry reviewing an Alice Munro story, "Gravel." He states,

"One of the first things I look for when reading a story is the motivation for its telling....The problem is that we usually remember the past in isolated moments—events that happen, but we have difficulty remembering what causally connects them, what relationship one event has to another....we may remember what happened, but not how it happened, what caused it. One tells a story in order to try to understand the links, the motivation, the causes."

"Ancient History" includes a thirty-six year old woman and her eighteen year old son. Lawrence, the husband and father died six months earlier. We watch Charles' uneasiness, sadness, and bewilderment at his father's sudden and unexpected death which is natural and to be expected. However, as the story moves along, Charles appears to be depressed. The reader accompanies Charles to the realization that his father was going to leave them anyway. The marriage had fallen apart, for reasons not known to the reader but Charles saw the differences in his parents' behaviors. So, not only does Charles have to try to deal with the sudden death of his still young father but also with the knowledge that the family was disintegrating anyway.

Every story I read by Richard Bausch is a masterpiece and I am truly amazed at the perception and ease with which Bausch captures the nuances of emotion. 

"Ancient History" takes place in Washington D.C. in about 1979. It is written in third-person POV and past tense and is 18 pages long.

30 June, 2011

Richard Bausch, "Guatemala"

"Guatemala" captures the sniping of three women, granddaughter, mother, and grandmother. The father died when the daughter was an infant and the mother never remarried. Now, the daughter is a teenager, the mother is dating and wants to introduce Dalton, the new boyfriend, to the grandmother and daughter. They've decided on dinner at a restaurant of Dalton's choosing. While the daughter is some sort of baseball throwing phenom and the grandmother has recreated Guatemala in a room of the house complete with monkey and enough humidity to create beading on the leaves, Bausch captures the nuances of familial long-term infractions and hurts against one another as well as each one's personal misery.

28 June, 2011

Richard Bausch, "Unjust"

This third-person point-of-view story tells of a man accused of sexual harassment. He is evidently innocent  according to the first sentence of the story. We follow his day as the stress between he and his wife intensifies and grown daughter arrives home because she's been unsuccessful in California as an actress. She's pregnant and her husband, Lucky, is something of a flaky character although intensely interested in truth. A neighbor man accosts his ten-year old son with screaming and name calling. Everyone in this story is dysfunctional in some matter or another. The present tense adds to the immediacy for Everett and his mounting problems including his fist fight with his neighbor.

24 June, 2011

Richard Bausch, "Accuracy"

Bausch's story takes place in about 1999 on a public golf course in Virginia. The limited shifting viewpoint is so skillfully handled that the shifts never feel abrupt. Richard Bausch and William Trevor are masters at this viewpoint and the psychological clarity with which they endow their characters is wonderful.

Jerry Barnes and Thomas McPherson have been meeting once a year since they re-united a decade earlier. They'd been high school buddies and had been wondering about Hopewell, the third of the inseparable threesome. They'd imagined that he might have died. He hadn't and when Jerry ran into him at a car dealership, he invited Hopewell to join him and Tom at their annual golf game. As the story unfolds--and it does so through Hopewell's dialogue, his young wife's responses, and the POV shifts between Tom and Jerry--we see how their marriages and families are bound for dissolution.

It is a wonderful story and the concept of accuracy is interesting in that the accuracy about trivial matters becomes an issue between the men and Darlene, Hopewell's wife, and the accuracy with which they do face or do not face the issues in their marriages and with their children is and will continue to be a problem.

08 May, 2010

Richard Bausch and Steven Millhauser

Richard Bausch's essay in the Atlantic takes a shot at writing "how-to" books. He's got a point but is pretty much preaching to the choir, so to speak. However, I did find his personal experience--being offered lots of money to write one--interesting. I love his short stories and so any advice he gives, I'm going to digest. The photo at right is Bausch.

Listened to Alec Baldwin read Steven Millhauser's short story, "The Dome."A hysterical story about consumerism and environmental control. A dome is built over the entire nation. This story was included in the 2008 Pushcart Prize XXXII: Best of the Small Presses anthology and before that was published in The American Scholar.

02 May, 2010

Richard Bausch, "Contrition"

"Contrition" by Richard Bausch has several themes, I think. A thin line, a single event, one bad choice can alter a life forever, fixation on an object cannot change historic facts but might help a person's viewpoint or perspective. Life is random; death is random. Some serious mistakes can never be corrected. In the story, an older man, fresh out of prison, goes to live with his sister and her new husband. The brother wants to see an old photograph and the sister refuses to even talk about it or acknowledge that she might have it in her possession. While the narrator has strong regrets over an incident that changed the trajectory of his life, more than anything he wants to see again the only photograph of his father who was killed accidentally when the narrator was an infant. He needs to see if there are any traces of regret in his father's expression.

While on the one hand, I wanted the sister to help him find the photo so things could be set right with his life, on the other hand, we are pretty sure nothing would change for the narrator from having seen the photo and if nothing were to change for the narrator, that might be more tragic. The story is written in 1st person POV and is about 8 pages long.

18 April, 2010

Richard Bausch's, "We Belong Together"

Fantastic short story, "We Belong Together," about a broken marriage as well as an ended extra-marital  affair. Tina, the "other" woman astutely sees that Frank did not want his wife, Mary, to leave him. It's written in an omniscient POV and past tense. It's not very long, just four pages, and takes place during one meal/drink in a restaurant. The story is by Richard Bausch, published in the Spring 2010 issue of Ploughshares, and edited by Elizabeth Strout.

28 February, 2010

Richard Bausch, "Wedlock"

Read Richard Bausch's story, "Wedlock," in which a newlywed couple drink too much champagne, check into their hotel room and the new husband becomes emotionally cruel as a backlash to the young bride talking too much about her first husband. Their marriage cannot possibly go well.

I am hooked on The Stories of Richard Bausch.

26 February, 2010

Richard Bausch, "Design"

Read Richard Bausch's short story, "Design," also included in The Stories of Richard Bausch. A Catholic priest, younger by three decades, and a Protestant preacher, terminally ill, deal with death in contrasting ways. The younger priest is often annoyed by the, what he considers smug, older Protestant who seems to harbor in happiness a secret. Layered in the story are a couple, middle-aged, of whom the husband dies unexpectedly; the priest is called to the hospital to administer last rites where the older preacher is already seated with one hand bandaged.

Bausch handles the dialogue wonderfully between the two religious men. They banter, ignore, cajole, respect, and annoy each other.

25 February, 2010

Richard Bausch, "Luck"

Read Richard Bausch's story, "Luck," included in The Stories of Richard Bausch.
It is about the relationship of a son and and alcoholic father. The son is disappointed in the father's behavior but, in the end, does feel luckier than the rich homeowner. The dialogue is perfect and the story has a nice symmetry with the stand-off between father and son mirrored with the stand-off between son and homeowner.

24 February, 2010

Richard Bausch, "The Fireman's Wife"

Am excited about "Vera, Vera." Worked on her fears this morning.

Read Richard Bausch's short story, "The Fireman's Wife," included in The Stories of Richard Bausch. Jane, married for just two years to Martin, a firefighter, is unhappy and plans to leave until Martin is injured in a fire. It's written in 3rd person POV, present tense.

Here is a link to an interview with Bausch about his novel, The Last Good Time and lots of other topics. Great interview.

21 February, 2010

Richard Bausch, "The Weight"

Read Richard Bausch's short story, "The Weight," then listened to him read it on YouTube. It's written in 1st person POV. John, now over a hundred years old, recalls incidents from 1903: a lynching, the accident of a circus elephant, and Anna, the black maid next door, nursing him and his sister, Livvie, when they had the fever.

Made some updates to "Vera, Vera."