RARE AND ENDANGERED SPECIES: A Novella and Eight Short Stories by Richard Bausch
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RARE AND ENDANGERED SPECIES: A Novella and Eight Short Stories

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Although Bausch (Rebel Powers, 1993, etc.) occasionally rests on his laurels here, this collection (some stories appeared previously in Harper's and other magazines) supports his reputation as a masterful short-fiction writer who fearlessly addresses love and its many permutations. One of Bausch's greatest talents is his ear for dialogue, and he has a way of replicating its rhythms while pointing up the ridiculousness of daily communication. ""Aren't You Happy For Me?"" consists mostly of a telephone call between a 23-year-old daughter and her father as she announces that she is getting married, that she is pregnant, and that her fiancÉ is 63. The discovery of a single ""High-Heeled Shoe"" in a field causes a man to contemplate the first and only affair during his 25-year marriage, and in speaking to his wife he is never quite sure whether he has revealed his secret. ""Tandolfo the Great"" is a part-time clown who drives to perform at a birthday party with a wedding cake in the back of his car, having intended to use it to propose marriage only to discover that the woman he secretly loves has reconciled with a former boyfriend. He takes out his sadness on the birthday boy and is tossed out of the party, almost losing his rabbit in the process. The title novella is a finely nuanced look at the aftermath of a suicide. A woman and her husband are forced to sell their farm, and before moving day she goes to a motel and swallows a bottle of pills without leaving a note. The narrative peels back layers and reveals shards of information about her and her family -- she had almost left her husband for another man 15 years earlier; her daughter Maizie has come tantalizingly close to an affair with a co-worker -- and deals with the big question by letting it hang unanswered. Pauses and crossed signals that echo loudly.

Pub Date: Aug. 15th, 1994
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Seymour Lawrence/Houghton Mifflin