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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A treat for short story readers!, December 2, 2003
Richard Bausch has always been better known for his short fiction than for his novels, and this hefty compilation of his stories demonstrates why. Bausch is a master at showing vulnerable moments, the points at which marriages, familial relationships, and psyches break down. He condenses entire lives into a few telling scenes. The awkwardness with which his protagonists approach relationships makes them endearingly fallible, with their missteps costing them in ways they never anticipate. Bausch is so skilled at evoking the reality of interpersonal encounters that one always gets the feeling that these solidly believable characters survive beyond the last line of their individual tales.
These forty-two stories are not meant to be read as a marathon, for to do so would be overwhelming. The recurrent motifs of personal blunders, regrets, and foundering relationships can wear on a reader if taken all at once. This collection is best read in chunks separated by other works - a novel, maybe, or stories by other authors. With this kind of space between readings, almost every story is a gem. "Nobody in Hollywood" tells of the ruined loves of two brothers and the ironic twist that unites them. "Someone to Watch Over Me" details what is perhaps the final night of a marriage, at an outrageously expensive restaurant that reveals the unbridgeable rift between Ted and Marlee. "Ancient History" subtly exposes the depth of emotion a teenage boy feels as he, his mother, and his aunt celebrate their first Christmas without his father. "Contrition" tells of the obsession an ex-con has with an old photograph of his father and the idyllic moment it captured. In one of the rare stories from a female point-of-view, "Guatemala," Bausch excels at exposing the raw undercurrents that run in a family of women. Bausch is at his best when he delves deeply into family dynamics, especially between protagonists and their parents.
This collection is truly a treat for Bausch fans. It makes a great gift for readers of contemporary literature.
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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pain Soup, February 15, 2004
By 
G. Bestick (Dobbs Ferry, NY USA) - See all my reviews
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Say your goal is to locate a short story writer in relation to his peers. Start by imagining a map of a valley, with Mount Munro at one end and Mount Carver at the other. Mount Munro, after Alice, is the summit of capacious stories that range widely across time and space, containing fully laid out lives. Inner worlds are slowly peeled back and the reader is led, subtly and inexorably, to a shiver of revelation. At the other extreme, Raymond Carver's brief stories seem found rather than made. The insights come all at once and hit you so fast you feel defenseless, then dazed. The impact lingers long after you've put down the story.
The Stories of Richard Bausch lie in the Carver end of the valley, somewhere fairly high up on the flanks of Mount Carver. The guy can write, and, like Carver, he can crack open whole worlds in a few pages. Each story read separately is a gem. Read them in a batch, though, and you may feel that you're stuck in the same bleak place. Bausch writes mostly about men whose lives are spinning out of control. These men seem to lack the something - courage, self-awareness, time, money or energy - they need to step off the entropy express. Individually, the lives are poignant; collectively they're depressing.
Which isn't to say there aren't small masterpieces here. Like Valor, about a drunk who saves a busload of kids only to come home and find his wife is leaving him. Or Glass Meadow, a marvelous depiction of what it feels like to be a twelve year old boy, wrapped in a story that's funny and sad and tender and true. Or The Person I Have Mostly Become, about the futility of good intentions, one of the saddest stories you'll ever read. In addition to men, Bausch crafts the emotional worlds of young boys, perhaps an underserved population in current fiction, with a jeweler's precision.
What gives these stories their power is, paradoxically, what is also unsatisfying about them: the absence of the implied author. The implied author is the shaping force that sits between the people on the page and the actual person who writes the story. The implied author presents a stance toward the work, which helps the reader to shape their own response. The implied author Alice Munro says to us, "We're going to look at some painful things, but we're going to go about it with dignity and fortitude, and no matter how sad or trapped these people are, neither we nor they will miss the grace notes or succumb to despair." The implied Raymond Carver is a Bogart-like figure, who says, "This is what life is like, my friend, funny and sad all at once, and we have no choice but to stay on stage and play out our part. Let's lift a glass for all the acts of fecklessness and false bravado, toast those ineffectual fists raised against fate."
I can't find the implied Richard Bausch, and I can't figure out how he feels about all this despair he's serving up. He seems to be saying, "Here's a bowl of pain soup. I'll step aside and let you eat it. When you're done with this one, I'll serve you another."
How you respond to this collection depends upon how many bowls of pain soup you can stand to eat in one sitting.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jewel Cut, November 12, 2003
By A Customer
A Comparative Feel -Good Book
Say you had a bad day, lost a pet, found out a friend has cancer, and you needed to forget your sorrows, so you go to the local soup kitchen and volunteer for an evening. After four hours of serving food to luckless people on the hind end of life or drugs or circumstance, you feel better, in comparison.
This is the dubious charm of Richard Bausch's anthology, The Stories of Richard Bausch.
He has been called "a master of the short story" in the New York Times Book Review, and this anthology underscores the truth of that. It includes 42 jewel cut stories that could make most writers cry with envy of Bausch's craft. Character development is the core strength of the stories, his simple clear piling on of spare words that imprint a character's appearance, morality, intellect and even smell into the reader's brain. It is a most intimate experience to meet a Richard Bausch character, because you are not reading at arm's length. Rather, his talent for character realization is so great that the hopeless, untalented, unlucky brutes are sitting in your lap, lying by your side, holding your hand as you read.
Yet, who wants to hold hands with these characters? Even the so-called "happy" stories are grounded in characters so flawed or damaged, that you want to give them a bottle of Prozac and run away. In fact, though the stories are told in the first person, the characters' lack of self-awareness is appalling. This is true of all the characters, from two boys being dragged around the country by self-absorbed amoral parents, to an upper middle class oaf who strives to be a good golfer and takes his obsession to a painful end, that somehow charms an abused woman into a relationship with him. This is the closest Bausch comes to a happy ending. Perhaps the central theme is that while most of us try to live our lives in a state of improving enjoyment and performance and understanding, there are these wretches at large who simply grind their lives to powder within a single narrow rut of incomprehension. Bausch's characters are so devoid of humor or even natural affection - the reader may laugh at them, a guffaw of pity and disgust, but they almost never laugh at themselves - that it is hard to believe in their desperate bland and boring lack of self awareness. Have they never had a spark of insight? Even a night at a soup kitchen can be uplifting - meeting the mother whose taken her children out of an abusive situation, or the man who has stopped cranking and gotten a job.
While reading the Bausch anthology, I fantasized about what he might do with a few heroes, because by the end I'd had enough of losers. I'd begun to wonder if I wasn't self-deluded myself, believing that we all have hidden talents and aspirations , when Bausch has found so many glumps to write about, and done it so convincingly. Perhaps this is the brilliance of the book that, like an evening at a soup kitchen, I ended it with that comparatively good feeling, and will probably go back to re-read some of the stories. The writing redeems the collection from its loser characters. It propels and uplifts the experience. So read The Stories of Richard Bausch, then move on to "The Ponder Heart" or an evening at a community soup kitchen, and cheer up.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you like short stories, you'll want this in your collection., December 28, 2012
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The tone and voice of this writer is lovely. I first read him in a beginning fiction class and had to have more. I started with this volume and will certain buy more of his work. He's got novels I bet are worth buying as well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful Short Fiction, April 9, 2012
By 
J. Smallridge (Kansas City, MO USA) - See all my reviews
Several other reviewers are right to point out the similarities between Richard Bausch and Raymond Carver. Whereas with Carver, a reader gets tight, dark prose, with Bausch one gets more detail with the same sense of foreboding throughout. I like both writers and I really like this collection.

My favorite stories here include: "Someone To Watch Over Me," where a failing marriage takes unusually poignant turn. "Nobody in Hollywood," where I was amazed at how the author connected such disparate characters. "Fatality," which is perhaps the darkest of the stories in its connection as it exposes family and violence. "The Man Who Knew Belle Starr, where a hitchhiker tale turns terribly dark. "The Person I Have Mostly Become" and "The Last Day of Summer" also are exceptionally good stories about fatherhood and how difficult it is to be the person we hope to become in the eyes of others. I also really enjoyed "Aren't You Happy For Me?" and "Not Quite Final" because they feature the same characters over space and time so a reader can experience what becomes of the family and the problems they face.

Bausch is an American master. A reader is lucky to see the world through his eyes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like tiny sparkling diamonds, May 24, 2010
By 
Roger W. Wright (Chicago, Illinois) - See all my reviews
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There is a basic unfairness in comparing writers of Mr. Bausch's stature and grace. Because the true greats all have their own voice and style. But the book jacket designer of this work didn't make the cover look like "The Stories of John Cheever" on a whim.

These stories are that good.

Mr. Bausch joint the ranks of the great. These are stories that engage the reader easily, prompt important thoughts, and are also fun. This author is a master at what he does.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, June 29, 2014
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Funny, unique
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good read., December 29, 2011
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This review is from: The Stories of Richard Bausch (Paperback)
This is a good book when you don't have time to read a book. I pick it up at odd times and the short stories are very satisfying.
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The Stories of Richard Bausch
The Stories of Richard Bausch by Richard Bausch (Paperback - November 9, 2004)
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