Richard Bausch never bases his characters on people he knows; he makes everything up. I discovered this by reading an interview with him in the Washington Post. It’s an old interview that I found on the internet.
I became interested in Richard Bausch because I’m reading a book of stories chosen by him. It’s called Best New American Voices 2008 and the stories are “culled from hundreds of writing programs” from across America. In his introduction Richard Bausch claims that the short story is America’s contribution to the world’s literary landscape, which is very similar to what Dave Eggers said in an anthology he edited recently and which I’ve also been reading. Dave Eggers hoped Europeans would become excited about the story after reading his anthology and start writing stories themselves.
That was an interesting idea, I thought. I didn’t realise we weren’t already writing stories in Europe. The vast majority of short story collections I own are by Europeans. But when you see just how many short stories are being written in America, maybe Eggers has a point. The senior fiction editor of The Atlantic claims to reject 3,600 stories every week (how does he even find time to count them?) while at the same time keeping up “a vast correspondence with young writers seeking counsel.”
The Atlantic has an interesting editorial policy, I discovered. While remaining “committed to the form” of the short story, it chooses not to publish one in every monthly edition. That’s because it would rather concentrate on “long-form narrative reporting.” (I wonder if the long-form narrative reporters need counselling.) I’ve never seen a copy of The Atlantic so I’m not that bothered about its editorial policy but I’m quite curious about where those 3,600 rejected stories end up.
“The reading public don’t want stories,” publishers tell us over here. Maybe that’s true; but with every passing year my longing to read short stories gets stronger and good stories get harder to find.
I was wondering if I should get hold of some stories by Richard Bausch. He seems to have written a lot. It’s the thing he’ll be remembered for, according to the Washington Post. He’s even written some he’s never tried to sell:
“I always write stories, and I write poems, too. I just never sell them to anybody, but I write them. They’re good, too. They never leave the house. They’re too disclosing. I get to hide in the fiction.”
Oh, Richard. Those are the stories I most want to read, those private stories that tell us all about you.
I wonder how many other fiction writers are hiding in their fiction and keeping all their best work for themselves. What I like about fiction is that the best of it tells us much more than even the writer knows. In nearly all the stories I admire, the writer’s soul is laid bare. Everything is disclosed. There is nowhere to hide.
Probably I won’t order that book of stories by Richard Bausch. Maybe if I want to read some good stories I should start a magazine. I could call it The Other Side of The Atlantic — short stories for Europeans.
But wait, I smell Blood…