In the background of nearly all of Bausch’s stories are the big events
4/5 Knopf In the background of nearly all of Bausch’s stories are the big events. There’s death, infidelity, divorce. But what’s so great about Bausch’s writing is his disinterest in what happened. In the opening story, ‘The Harp Department of Love,’ the protagonist, Josephine, has engaged in an unwitting bout of infidelity. Married to a man 30 years her senior, she befriends Bradford, a guy in her painting class closer to her own age. Bradford believes there’s more to their relationship and confronts Josephine’s husband, Stan, telling Stan he has won her heart. Josephine is shocked, though wonders if she has allowed herself a degree of naivete about their relationship, and Stan takes it hard, temporarily moving out. Stan’s departure is the story’s axis but not its focus. Instead, truths about their marriage, and the two of them as people, slowly emerge.
Bausch’s fascination with repercussions is what makes the title story. After a business deal has gone bad, Paula’s husband, Kent, is shot by his partner, and hospitalised. The family gathers at home, where a blizzard locks them in. There’s all sorts of terror: a large, mysterious man shows up looking for Kent, a cousin is missing, the power dies. Paula tries to hold it together, as it becomes obvious there’s something Kent hasn’t told her. Mistrust, uncertainty and impending doom: these all necessarily follow in a story about a shooting. But Bausch slips something else in there: a tenderhearted regret at the stalemate that Paula and Kent’s marriage had become. Jonathan Messinger