Prize-winning story-writer Bass here collects ten pieces, all but one previously published, for his debut volume. His...

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THE WATCH: Stories

Prize-winning story-writer Bass here collects ten pieces, all but one previously published, for his debut volume. His unusual narrative voice fascinates because it treats the bizarre as ordinary, and surprises with its outrage over the smaller disturbances of man. Many of Bass's southern-born protagonists indulge in a great refusal, often ignoring the onset of adulthood or old age, with their attendant responsibilities. In three related stories, a young narrator and his best friend Kirby seem poised on the brink of maturity. In ""Juggernaut,"" they discover that their peculiar geometry teacher, a pathological liar, also plays on a Houston ice-hockey team, a bunch of never-beens who hack away for the fun of it. In ""Redfish,"" the two friends fish down on the Gulf and alternate between drunkenness and the acknowledgment of change--Kirby, for one, has a wife back in Houston--but end their escapade with a reassertion of boyish insouciance. True disillusionment comes in ""Mexico,"" where the two layabouts, now oil-rich, continue their drunken revels south until some local kids back home spoil their last college-style prank. The ""last tough man there is,"" the middle-aged buddy of the narrator in ""Choteau,"" roams rugged Montana and keeps both a teen-aged girlfriend and one his own age--his rough awakening occurs while riding a wild moose. Fears of loneliness and death lead to some strange behavior in the long and surreal title story set in the ""defeated, backwoods state"" of Mississippi, which also figures in two other pieces. In the first, named for the state, a hapless fellow with a stockpile of old-formula coke recalls the fat girl who wanted to marry him; the latter, ""The Government Bears,"" attests to the burden of living in a state with a legacy of meanness and diminishing hope. And two remaining tales concern the kinds of tough-guys Bass clearly admires most--bronco-busters and cattlemen. When redemption comes in these pantheistic fictions, it's usually in the rugged North, under an azure sky, with mountains looming in the background--macho epiphanies, in other words.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 1988

ISBN: 039331135X

Page Count: -

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1988