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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A treasure trove of short stories from a master of the genre; VERY highly recommended, December 7, 2013
This review is from: The Stories of Frederick Busch (Hardcover)
THE STORIES OF FREDERICK BUSCH is a veritable treasure trove of the art of the short story. No surprise, of course, since Busch has been much admired by other writers for decades now, not to mention readers like me who appreciate serious fiction done right. A Busch fan for over twenty years, I have read almost all of his novels by now, but had read only two of his story collections, so of the thirty stories gathered here only seven (from Too Late American Boyhood Blues and Rescue Missions: Stories) were familiar to me. I had planned to quickly skim those, but they were just so damn good that I ended up reading them all over again.

Short stories are always a hard sell in the book world, which is a shame, because they are such a demanding art form, and one which Fred Busch had long ago mastered. But Busch himself would have been the first to tell you that it took WORK, years of it, to finally get it right. I am reminded here of an autobiographical essay he wrote called "The Floating Christmas Tree" (in A Dangerous Profession: A Book About the Writing Life) about his early struggling days, newly married and living in a tiny New York apartment, where he would write late at night in the bathroom (so he wouldn't awaken his wife), perched hunched over on the edge of the tub, his typewriter on the toilet lid -

"I was twenty-two - and I was going to be a writer, I WAS a writer, I was going to get THEM to admit that I was a writer, and I sat in that awkward position and wrote my awkward prose."

I remember how I laughed when reading that, but by God Fred Busch kept at it. Witness these stories, every one of them perfect gems of the genre. And that same self-effacing sense of humor is displayed often, as well as the much darker themes which often fill Busch's fiction. In fact, Busch himself often shows up here, or thinly-disguised versions of him. From the clueless pudgy professor in "Widow Waters" to the desperate out-of-shape dog lover in "The Page," the well-meaning but buffoon-ish dispatcher in "The Baby in the Box," or the practical blustery father in "The Domicile," all the way to another concerned father of a returned veteran suffering from PTSD in "Patrols." Because Busch followed that oft-quoted precept of writers. He wrote about what he knew. And he knew about being a son, a brother, a husband, a father. And he was also a keen observer of human nature, and mined every aspect of what he knew and saw, often featuring small boys, abandoned husbands or disillusioned wives as his main characters.

Elizabeth Strout (another writer I very much admire) provides a most useful introduction here to Busch as a writer, a teacher and a man. But the stories themselves are the real stars. I called this book a treasure trove, and I will treasure it. My very highest recommendation.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Master of the Short Story, January 31, 2014
This review is from: The Stories of Frederick Busch (Hardcover)
I was SO thrilled to find out that a collection (a large one!) of Frederick Busch's short stories had been published. I was not only a student of his at Colgate University but he was also my advisor. The first class I took with him was in the fall of my freshman year (1975, gulp). While I had a very solid base in literature for an incoming freshman, somehow the short story genre had been overlooked which would be considered unfortunate except that I had Professor Busch introduce me to them. He was passionate about Hemingway's short stories but like Ernest, Professor Busch wrote (or at least published) mostly novels and most in the years after I had graduated and although I have read most of the novels, I had only read a couple of his short stories. He died too young but I am so glad that his wonderful stories (I've only read a few so far-I'm savoring them) are finally available to all.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The work of one of our greateat short story writers, January 28, 2014
By 
C. Z. Walker (Gilbertsville, NY, USA) - See all my reviews
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We have needed a collected short stories of Frederick Busch for years.. I am so grateful to see this beautiful collectiom edited by Elizabeth Strout. For anyone who wants to become a fiction writer: study the work of this master craftsman, lover of language, and compassionate observer of life. For anyone who just wants to read powerful, absorbing fiction in quest of understanding human lives: these stories are a rare gift.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humanity in all its Beauty and Pain, January 9, 2014
By 
Bookreporter (New York, New York) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Stories of Frederick Busch (Hardcover)
W. W. Norton & Company deserves the thanks of anyone who loves an intelligent, well-constructed short story, for publishing this career-spanning collection of more than 30 of them from the grossly underappreciated Frederick Busch. Busch, who died in 2006 at age 64, taught creative writing at Colgate for nearly four decades and produced seven collections of short stories. Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Elizabeth Strout (OLIVE KITTREDGE; THE BURGESS BOYS) has selected nearly 500 pages worth of his best ones for this volume. In her generous introduction, after noting how the label “writer’s writer” frequently is attached to those, like Busch, whose careers combine literary craftsmanship and modest sales, she rightly observes that “any reader, whether they are a writer, or a lover of humanity, a consumer of literature for the sake of it alone, has a great deal to find here.”

Busch was a contemporary of writers like Raymond Carver, Richard Ford, Tobias Wolff and Andre Dubus II, once associated with the literary movement inelegantly named “dirty realism.” Like them, he shares a preoccupation with the predicaments of ordinary people, more focused on closely observed character studies and life’s barely noticeable turning points than dramatic plot twists. Though their circumstances are as varied as real life --- something that makes easy summary a challenge --- if there’s a dominant tone, here it’s one of regret. Whether it’s come about as a result of divorce, death or abandonment, many of Busch’s characters seem to understand that happiness is forever destined to lie just beyond their grasp.

One of the most affecting stories in that vein is “Ralph the Duck.” Its protagonist is a college security guard and Vietnam veteran, one of whose fringe benefits is his ability to take one course a semester, assuring “graduation in only sixteen years.” It’s only in the course of his rescue of a suicidal student that we learn the source of his private grief. “Dog Song” features a minor judicial officer who finds himself in the hospital, desperately trying to recall the circumstances of the automobile accident that’s landed him there.

“Reruns,” the story of a psychiatrist whose estranged wife has been taken hostage in Beirut, is an exceptionally powerful one. In it, he watches a grainy tape sent by her captors, “my wife on reruns, available as starkly as this, and to strangers.” Another story that reveals Busch’s skill at creating dramatic tension is “Bob’s Your Uncle,” where a troubled teenager, the son of the narrator’s former lover, travels from England to America for an unsettling visit with the man and his wife, who stands, in the story’s climactic paragraph, “between men gone wrong, or boys who hadn’t turned out right.”

Though many of the stories are set in the small towns of upstate New York, where Busch lived most of his life, they’re leavened by a few tales that take place in and around New York City, where he was born. In “Vespers,” a woman returns with her Midwestern lover to her Flatbush neighborhood, where she and her brother “had grown up, sometimes even together.” The narrator of “The Lesson of the Hotel Lotti” has “composed some recollections, for the sake of sentiment,” of her mother’s affair with a successful Manhattan maritime lawyer.

Busch is a confident prose craftsman; he doesn’t dazzle with experimental structures or other striking effects, but instead is content to hammer out one sturdy sentence after another. Where his mastery is most evident is in the opening lines of so many of these stories, thrusting us into that moment, identified by the great Irish short story writer Frank O’Connor “after which nothing else is ever the same.” A few examples, each one a model of concision, suffice to reveal his talent:

“It began for me in a woman’s bed, and my father was there though she wasn’t.”
“Rudy made me promises, and they came true.”
“Duane and I don’t talk about how she killed herself or where.”
“Did I tell you she was raped?
“I loved his mother once.”

Couple these striking beginnings with a facility for realistic dialogue, an ability to sketch a scene in efficient strokes, and a keen understanding of human psychology, and you instantly appreciate why Busch was held in such high regard by his fellow writers.

At any given moment in the literary world, it seems someone either is lamenting the death of the short story or trumpeting an imminent revival. Reading Frederick Busch renders those predictions irrelevant. In “The Floating Christmas Tree,” an essay in Busch’s 1999 collection A DANGEROUS PROFESSION, he claimed he wrote “for love, because of a compulsive need, out of a requirement that I cannot shake: that I justify my time on the earth by telling stories. That’s what I have to do. I have to do it.” These stories, with their deep empathy for humanity in all its beauty and pain, show how that time was more than justified.

Reviewed by Harvey Freedenberg
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazingly Powerful Character-Driven Stories, May 1, 2014
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I'm almost ashamed to say that I had never heard of Frederick Busch before, as he's not one of the writers than many people seem to be talking about nowadays. However, I took a chance and bought this collection based on the reviews, and I was not disappointed. In fact, the power and intensity of these carefully constructed, very human, character-driven narratives blew me away. This collection is one of the best I've ever read. It offers traditional literary fiction of the finest quality, especially for those who appreciate the art of realism in the realm of the short story.
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5.0 out of 5 stars You will carry these stories with you, for a long, long time., April 25, 2014
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A great collection of stories, wise, melancholy, quirky, extending over a wide league of human and animal emotions. A very good read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A close second to Alice Munro, March 17, 2014
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Joseph G. Murray (Waterford, CT USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Stories of Frederick Busch (Hardcover)
Munro, Nobel winner, has been my favorite short story favorite author. Having discovered Busch, I can say that he is close to edging out Munro as one of the most engaging writers I have come across to plumb the mysteries of the human spirit.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful Stories of Ordinary Lives, February 6, 2014
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This review is from: The Stories of Frederick Busch (Hardcover)
The stories of Frederick Busch are simple, powerful and elegant. Stories about ordinary people from a writer who finds the simple truths in an extra-ordinary way. Reminiscent of Raymond Carver.
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5.0 out of 5 stars the best short stories, ever, January 28, 2014
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I think this is the most wonderful writing of short stories I've come across.
I will look up his other books and read them.
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The Stories of Frederick Busch
The Stories of Frederick Busch by Frederick Busch (Hardcover - December 2, 2013)
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