A fine, fat collection of 42 tales, drawn mostly from the critically acclaimed author’s several earlier volumes.
Bausch is a realist with a pronounced interest in domestic subjects, whose best stories are distinguished by characters whose complexity is simply and economically suggested, convincingly “natural” dialogue, and a heartfelt sense of time and opportunity passing and lives changing. His weaknesses are an occasional slightness (in nothing-much-here stories like “1951,” “Letter to the Lady of the House,” and “Evening”) and unoriginality (“Fatality,” in which a father decisively confronts his daughter’s physically abusive husband, is very similar to a celebrated Andre Dubus story). But Bausch’s considerable gifts for strong focus and compassion breathe troublingly real life into his analyses of estrangement and unrequited or rejected spousal and filial love (“Police Dreams,” “Weather,” “Luck”), incompatibility and adultery (“The Eyes of Love,” “High-Heeled Shoe”), and self-loathing (“The Person I Have Mostly Become,” a powerhouse portrayal of a divorced single father, burdened with numerous resentments, who makes his young son the helpless object of his anger). Other superior examples of his understanding of people misunderstanding themselves are “Tandolfo the Great,” a professional clown who takes out his romantic frustrations on the child at whose birthday party he performs, and “The Fireman’s Wife,” who finds in her often absent-from-home husband’s family a comforting and infectious stoicism and stability. Many other Bausch stories are unusual in their concentration on people who persevere and surmount separation, dejection, and grief—like the young woman of “Aren’t You Happy for Me?,” delighted to be pregnant by her 63-year-old fiancé; the young priest (of “Design”) who finds his vocation in the example set by a tireless elderly clergyman; and the unlikely hero (of “Valor”) who discovers his manhood comforting victims of a school-bus accident.
This is the book for which Bausch will be remembered.