Authors: Richard Bausch

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American novelist and short-story writer

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Real Presence, 1980

Take Me Back, 1981

The Last Good Time, 1984

Mr. Field’s Daughter, 1989

Violence, 1992

Rebel Powers, 1993

Good Evening Mr. and Mrs. America, and All the Ships at Sea, 1996

In the Night Season, 1998

Hello to the Cannibals, 2002

Short Fiction:

Spirits, and Other Stories, 1987

The Fireman’s Wife, and Other Stories, 1990

The Selected Stories of Richard Bausch, 1996

Someone to Watch over Me: Stories, 1999


Rare and Endangered Species: A Novella and Stories, 1994


Richard Carl Bausch (bawsh) ranks high among the American fiction writers whose works began appearing late in the twentieth century. Bausch was born in Fort Benning, Georgia, to Robert Carl and Helen Simmons Bausch. His identical twin brother, Robert, also became a novelist. Although Richard Bausch often writes about unhappy families, he admits that his own large family, consisting of his parents and their six red-haired children, was a harmonious one. The children were raised as devout Catholics. When Richard was three, the family moved to Washington, D.C. Soon afterward, they moved to suburban Maryland and later to Virginia. As an adult, Bausch would make his home in the Washington, D.C., area.{$I[A]Bausch, Richard}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Bausch, Richard}{$I[tim]1945;Bausch, Richard}

Although he always liked to read, Richard did not at first consider becoming a writer; it was Robert who started writing in childhood. After his high school grades made it unlikely that he could become a priest, Richard became a singer-songwriter and even tried his luck as a standup comic. In 1965 the twins enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, where they taught survival skills to airmen on their way to Vietnam. After his discharge in 1969, Richard Bausch toured with a rock band. On May 3 he married Karen Miller, a photographer. They would have five children.

By the time of his marriage, Bausch was thinking seriously about becoming a writer. He went first to Northern Virginia Community College, then to George Mason University. After graduating in 1974, Bausch took his wife and new baby to Iowa City, Iowa, where he had been accepted by the prestigious University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. After receiving his M.F.A. in 1975, he returned to George Mason as a temporary instructor. Two years at Northern Virginia Community College followed, and then he went back to George Mason, where in 1980 he became a full professor and was awarded the Heritage Chair of Creative Writing.

Bausch is praised by reviewers for his psychological insight, his mastery of traditional structure, and his lucid prose, and he has had considerable popular success as well as critical recognition. His first novel, Real Presence, was a Book-of-the-Month Club alternate selection. Two of his books have been nominated for a PEN/Faulkner Award, the novel Take Me Back in 1982 and the collection Spirits, and Other Stories in 1988. Bausch received the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Best Writer’s Award in 1992, and the following year the Academy Award in Literature was presented to him by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Although Bausch has friends throughout the writing community, he cannot be classified as a member of any school. Like the contemporary fiction writers Tobias Wolff, Bobbie Ann Mason, and Raymond Carver, who are termed “dirty realists,” Bausch writes realistically about people whose lives seem hopeless. However, his style is simpler, and his characters are more likely to be middle-class people than members of society’s underclass. Like other Catholic writers, Bausch presents the world as a moral battlefield; however, his stories contain almost no references to ritual or theology. On the basis of his lifelong residence in the South, Bausch was elected to the Fellowship of Southern Writers, but he does not consider himself a southern writer, arguing that his works do not reflect a preoccupation with place, race, and heritage.

Bausch’s works most resemble those of one of the authors he most admires, the nineteenth century Russian short-story writer Anton Chekhov. Like him, Bausch writes about ordinary people, caught at a moment of crisis; the action in his works is internal; and his narratives rarely build toward a resolution. Bausch also resembles Chekhov in his spare use of language; both writers suggest much more than they state. Bausch’s greatest achievement, however, may be simply that he captures so accurately the frustrations, the failures, and the occasional small moral victories of everyday life.

BibliographyAlmon, Bert. “Richard Bausch, 1945-    .” In American Writers: A Collection of Literary Biographies, edited by Jay Parini. Supplement 7. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2001. An extended biographical and critical essay. Discusses at length whether Bausch should be considered a southern writer.Bausch, Richard. Interview by Dulcy Brainard. Publishers Weekly 237 (August 10, 1990): 425-426. The author explains why he finds the short-story genre so satisfying and expresses hope that he will soon reach a larger audience. Moral issues, he says, are central in his life and in his fiction.Bell, Madison Smartt. “Everyday Hazards.” The New York Times Book Review (June 14, 1987): 16. The subject of Spirits and Other Stories is the “hazards” of everyday life. Most of the stories end unhappily; “Spirits” is an exception.Burroway, Janet. “In Mary’s Footsteps: Richard Bausch’s Heroine Falls Under the Spell of a Nineteenth-Century Traveler.” The New York Times Book Review 107, no. 36 (September 8, 2002): 27. Although the reviewer sees some weaknesses in the plot of Hello to the Cannibals, she finds that the novel is redeemed by Bausch’s masterful use of the English language, especially in his scenes of domestic conflict.Cahill, Thomas. “Fireworks Hidden and Deep.” Commonweal 114 (October 9, 1987): 568-569. In this review of Spirits and Other Stories, it is argued that Bausch’s superb style and well-drawn characters will cause him to be remembered when more fashionable writers are forgotten. His preoccupation with fatherhood and “caring” is linked to the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence.Desmond, John F. “Catholicism in Contemporary American Fiction.” America 170 (May 14, 1994): 7-11. Bausch is one of a number of fine Catholic writers who, avoiding “sentimentality and easy dogmatism,” show their characters facing very real evils, which they can survive only with the aid of divine grace.Dorris, Michael. “The Drama of Ordinary Life.” The Washington Post Book World (June 28, 1987): 6. Bausch’s mastery of the short-story genre is evident throughout Spirits and Other Stories. The title story is discussed at length, others more briefly.Elie, Paul. “The Way Things Are: Richard Bausch’s Unadorned World.” Commonweal 117, no. 19 (November 9, 1990): 642-646. Argues that Bausch’s primary theme is the separation between people. The author’s Catholicism is reflected in his answer to the problem: Individuals must learn to care about how others feel without offering them easy answers.Kinsella, Bridget. “A Tale of Twin Novelists: Richard and Robert Bausch.” Publishers Weekly 249, no. 37 (September 16, 2002): 20. The twin brothers talk candidly about their early years, their beginnings as writers, and their future plans.O’Brien, Sean. “Drifting Westwards.” The Times Literary Supplement (July 21, 1995): 21. A favorable review of the first British collection of Bausch’s short fiction, Aren’t You Happy for Me? and Other Stories. Analyzes the title story, “What Feels Like the World,” “Design,” and “To the Lady of the House.”Pesetsky, Bette. “Quarrels over Who Said What and When.” The New York Times Book Review (August 19, 1990): 9. Insists that though Bausch’s characters are often called ordinary, they are unusual in their intelligence and in their yearning for meaning. Seven of the stories in The Fireman’s Wife and Other Stories are discussed in terms of a common theme, “redemption through understanding.”Reising, Russell. “Richard Bausch.” In The Columbia Companion to the Twentieth-Century American Short Story, edited by Blanche H. Gelfant. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000. A brief biographical essay, followed by perceptive comments on patterns and themes in Bausch’s short fiction.Shields, Carol. “The Life You Lead May Be Your Own.” The New York Times Book Review (August 14, 1994): 6. Ignoring the literary fashions of the 1970’s and the 1980’s, Bausch has continued to write realistic domestic fiction. Again in Rare and Endangered Species, various relationships, including marriages, are threatened by change, betrayal, and sheer boredom, and yet his characters try valiantly to remain true to each other and to their own best selves.
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