Interesting people in various painful predicaments find ways to muddle through.
The current collection of 14 stories from Bausch (Before, During, After, 2014, etc.), considered one of our living masters of fiction, demonstrates the author’s lightning-quick ability to develop complex, unique characters and situations, and the title tells a lot about its throughline. The “weather of the world” refers to the aspects of life that are out of our control, and the stories examine how we choose to make our peace with them—a theme made explicit in a story called “Map Reading,” about two gay siblings who, through circumstance and inertia, have been of no help to one another in their travails. The brother “had always been inclined to gloomy reflections. Friends remarked on it. With several of them he had formed a casual club that never met, called the Doom Brothers Club.” When his younger half sister wonders whether everyone in the world isn’t “living in sin,” he observes, “Everyone’s living in whatever weather there is where they are.” This story, like many in the collection, finishes on a note of lingering sadness, and several stories deal with male protagonists making big mistakes in romance. The cop in the first one, “Walking Distance,” pays the price for an excess of uxoriousness, while the painter in “The Lineaments of Gratified Desire” becomes distracted from the treasure he already has by one sparkling beyond his reach. The confessed adulterer in “We Belong Together” has an unpleasant surprise in store, and the newlywed in “The Hotel Macabre” makes the error of allowing his odious sister to join him and his bride on their honeymoon. In one of the few stories from a female point of view, “Night,” the male partner is a violent abuser; other stories examine damaged men from a closer perspective, particularly “Veterans Night,” about young men who have served in Iraq, and “Still Here, Still There,” about a near-centenarian pair from World War II.
The weather in Bausch’s world is never better than overcast, but his craftsmanship lights up something fine in the gloom.