A benchmark collection of stories by Bass (All the Land to Hold Us, 2013, etc.), one of the most capable practitioners of the form at work today.
A story by Bass takes one of several forms. One is a delineation of loss, usually but not always lost love, by someone stumbling through it, usually but not always a middle-aged man. In another, a woman, just this side of young, moves toward freedom born of self-discovery—and in this, few male writers, Jim Harrison excepted, are much good at even guessing what that might mean. “She felt as if she were younger,” one of Bass’ protagonists thinks, “going back to a place, some place she had not been in a long time but could remember fondly. It felt like she was in love.” Constrained by place, religion, circumstance, there are young people who shape their own worlds under the noses of grown-ups: says one Mormon girl of the secret life of an elder, “I’m not supposed to know that…I’m the only one who knows.” If it’s a Bass story, there’s usually a hawk afloat in the sky or dogs running around—“Texas hounds,” for instance, “that I’d brought up north with me a few years before.” Long associated with both the Deep South and the mountainous West, Bass writes movingly of the land, weather, and place as well—even when the place isn’t always attractive, such as the dark edges of little Western towns, “strange seams of disintegrating roughness on the perimeters.” All of these elements come to the fore in the 100-odd pages of new stories that close the book, all wind-swept plains and grim forests, mountain lions, badly loved girls, and wondrous resolutions—for one, that “there is no end, and we all deserve everything our hearts desire.”
Essential reading for students of the modern American short story and some of the best work of a writer who is at the top of his game.