Saturday, July 8, 2017

"Living in the Weather of the World," by Richard Bausch

I have not read a lot by Richard Bausch, the novelist and short story writer (and occasional poet), but what I have read (mainly short stories), I have liked. I recently finished reading his latest short story collection, “Living in the Weather of the World” (Knopf, 2017). Great title, right? Bausch’s characters are very realistic, but caught up in odd sorts of situations. A police officer and the man who held him up at gunpoint end up talking about their difficult marriages; what is fascinating is that the assailant’s disintegrating marriage and his devastation are the focus of the story, rather than the crime he commits. A wife leaves her husband because of his affair; he is shocked and overwhelmed; he tells his mistress and it turns out she is about to leave him as well. Ah, the irony! A man fields a phone call from his suicidal mistress in the middle of the night, with his sleeping wife nearby; this reader finds herself torn about whom she is supposed to sympathize with. A wife discovers her own straying husband when the hospital calls and says he is in ICU; she thought he was at a movie with his brother, but apparently he was with his mistress. So there is a lot about marriage and a lot about infidelity in these stories. Depressing, but interesting. Also: A man meets his half sister, whom he hasn’t seen since she was a child. A 99-year-old man is reunited with the German soldier who saved his life 72 years earlier. And so on. The intriguing events certainly hold our interest, but as always, for me, it is the portrayals of the characters and their interactions (including marriage) that most capture my attention (and admiration, in the case of a gifted writer such as Bausch). The author has just the right distance from the characters – involved, but with a necessary wariness as well. He is also a master of dialogue.
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