Monday, March 21, 2011

Book Review: Something is Out There. Stories by Richard Bausch

Something is out there.
Stories by Richard Bausch
Alfred A. Knopf
268 pages

There's something I can't quite put my finger on with Something is out there, the eighth short story collection by new-to-me author Richard Bausch.  I'm not sure what, exactly, it is about this collection that has left me underwhelmed while really liking most of these 11 stories.  

I know, it doesn't make sense to me either.  So, don't mind me, I'm just going to ramble to myself here and see if I can figure it out. 

As I said, I really liked most of these stories.  They held my interest and several, especially the title story, were filled with enough tension to keep me turning the pages. "Something is Out There" fits this bill with its fierce blizzard and a potential accident, and even though there aren't any answers by the story's end, there's enough foreboding and dread to fill a novel. Also in this category is "Reverend Thornhill's Wife," which had me wondering if her sins would be discovered and what would have happened if she had just spoken up in the first place. 

There are a lot of secrets involving relationships (don't they all?) in these stories and a lot of assumed secrets.  There's adultery and loss.  There's also death and sadness, particularly in "Byron the Lyron," one of my favorites.  This one is about a devoted son sitting vigil at his dying mother's bedside while coping with the fresh breakup of a long-term relationship. This story is notable for how it makes the reader feel, which in my experience was a palpable sense of sadness. Maybe it was because I saw elements of my own life in this one, but in my opinion, this was probably one of the best of the collection. 

Now that I write this, I realize that this is kind of a depressing review of a depressing collection of stories but that's not what bugged me about it though.  I mean, I can handle depressing. With short stories, so much has to happen within a very brief amount of time - and ultimately, in my opinion, it is the writing itself that is key to everything in a short story. And for me, it is the writing itself that is at the crux of my problem with this collection of otherwise very good stories. 

In my opinion - and what the hell do I know, really? - Bausch's style in Something is out there seems to be very flat, very matter-of-fact.  Like the old writing adage, I felt like I was being told what happened, not shown. I didn't feel part of the action or the plot, rather that I was witnessing it from a distance.   

Richard Bausch is an accomplished writer and one with many accolades to his name.  I haven't read any of his other works, but even though Something is out there wasn't quite for me, surely there's someone out there for this one.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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