Long a Montanan by way of Mississippi, Rick Bass is an astute writer of the land. In his novels and stories, trees and fields are stages for human interaction, while bears snuffle about at the edge of the treeline and dogs yelp happily.
It’s not that he harbors any antipathy toward the city, and stories such as the previously uncollected “An Alcoholic’s Guide to Peru and Chile” and the older “The Fireman” are perfectly home there. But there’s something about openness and distances, and how people behave in those spaces, that engages Bass. The stories in For a Little While are often about love and loss, about unspoken tragedies and missed opportunities and always the miscommunication that takes place among men and women—about the universal things, that is.
In that regard, he says, “someone might consider the book a 480-page rolling story.” He adds, “I just work ahead, one sentence, then one paragraph at a time, each paragraph a painting, each story a series of paintings.” But if each story is a painting, each sentence is a poem. Bass’s language is exact and hard won, and in each story he continues to address the challenge he set himself as a young writer, “to write about diverse characters and situations and locations [while] always widening perspectives.”
And perhaps widening his waistband. Having gathered these stories, his next project is to travel around the world to visit writers he has admired and learned from, “fixing a nice meal for them as a way of saying thank you.” Gregory McNamee is a contributing editor.