In this collection of mini-tales, the author manages to balance the idiosyncrasies of love with the basic needs residing in all of us. His vision is so clear and untainted that his stories seem to have been purloined from other sources and simply recycled under his byline. But that's the beauty here, that sense of always being there. These fables dive below the surface to unearth the complex and usually misunderstood emotions of infidelity, depression, insecurity, and all the other permutations we tend to label as love.
Thematically, these pieces run the gamut from valor to self-knowledge, from contrition to self-consolation, generic feelings universally experienced but given great new depth and substance by a master wordsmith.
The introductory story, "Nobody In Hollywood," opens with the incisive and all-inclusive lines, "I was pummeled as a teenager. For some reason I had the sort of face that asked to be punched." Beautifully simple, this insightful entree to the following words and paragraphs acts as a guidepost, a marker out on the highway of life's experiences. But so much information is gleaned from these twenty words that the story almost writes itself; this is not going to be a happy-ending tale, and it isn't.
Richard Bausch is an efficient writer, and though this runs over six hundred pages, there is no excess, no meandering dialogue and no misleading descriptive narrative. He is fascinated with the elementary yet complex human spirit, and there are few writers today capable of such a wealth of talent and insight.
These forty-two short stories spread out before you like a map of the psyche, and if you're careful and read every word, you're still destined to find yourself lost in the labyrinth of love. But at least you'll know you're not alone there.