“I said to Karen, my wife…’I’m going to write stories. To hell with this,’” says novelist and short-storyist Richard Bausch. More than 25 years ago, when he was working odd jobs (from driving a cab to distributing phone books), Bausch turned his back on what was at the time his main creative outletwriting song lyrics and wanting to be a “hybrid between Paul Simon and Bob Dylan”and took to creating stories that take you to another place but don’t let you forget where you live. Reading Bausch is like walking into a neighbor’s houseon a bad day his marriage is a little sour, his bills aren’t quite paid, and his worries are a lot like yours.
Bausch’s tales aren’t mired in heartache, though. Much of his work concerns relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, siblings and friends, but it’s filled with loveand humor. In the wonderful “Aren’t You Happy for Me?” (from the collection Rare and Endangered Species), Jack Ballinger listens as his 22-year-old daughter delivers the news that she plans to marry her boyfriend, who is an absurd 43 years her senior and the father of the child she is carrying. At last year’s Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the attendees at Bausch’s reading of the story drew even more noise from an already creaky floor by stomping their feet with laughter.
Bausch says he gets more of a thrill from reading and writing than he does from playing music in front of a crowd, although he has not completely given up on his previous pursuit. Bausch still writes songs and plays guitarone sits beside his writing desk. So when the author of the recent Good Evening Mr. & Mrs. America, and All the Ships at Sea stops for a break, he can play himself a song.
Before his conversion to the literary life, Bausch played rhythm guitar in a band called the Luv’d Ones. Now, out around George Mason University, where he teaches creative writing, you can catch Bausch playing in his current band, The Old Man and the Kids, a combo made up of the writer and his daughter Emily, 20, and son Wesley, 23. Of his sideline Bausch says, “I’m like a bad little kid with a toy.”
Bausch reads at 8 p.m. Feb. 27 at George Washington University’s Marvin Center. For information call: (202) 994-6180.