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Listeners crouched intently in their chairs as Richard Bausch read two of his short stories to an enraptured audience. His voice was a low rumble carrying to each seat of Herrick Auditorium and easily lulling students and faculty into the shadowy settings of his stories. Bausch stood in front of the podium in a plaid shirt, with eyes shaded by a worn ball cap, making him a familiar voice and image immediately.
Next May, Bausch will have a new book of stories coming out. The two stories he read were from this collection. The First, “Veteran’s Night,” immersed the audience into a late night bar scene that centered on war vets still facing violence and fear at home. The second reading held a similar atmosphere: weighted, somber, and palled in the nighttime. This one was titled “Unknown” and focused on a singular crisis of a married man engaged in an affair.
Bausch was introduced by one of his former students, visiting assistant professor Michael Croley from Denison’s creative writing department. In his introduction, Croley noted that by “simply being near [Bausch], I would find the path to being a writer.” Indeed, after listening to him give life to his characters and color the scenes of his stories, writing seemed to be accessible and desirable in the truth and emotion it allows.
Bausch is an American writer of both short stories and novels, with a total of 21 works of fiction. He was born in Ft. Benning, Georgia and has since lived in Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Iowa, among others. He also served briefly in the U.S. Air Force. During his time as a writer, he has been awarded a number of recognitions, including the 2004 PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Story and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Additionally, he is a part of the Fellowship of Southern writers and appears in The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction. Croley described him as a “constant North Star of American Literature,” bringing a certain awareness to his writing and revealing the “depths of [literature’s] power.”
Bausch was invited to Denison as a part of the Beck Lecture Series, a series that brings writers to Denison to engage with students. It is a valuable resource for creative writing students and brings a plethora of storytelling to campus for all to enjoy – an inviting prospect on that chilly Thursday evening.
Critics have likened Bausch to Tim O’Brien, Stephen Crane, Tolstoy, and a myriad of other renowned writers. Denison students were immersed into Bausch’s writing and consequently allowed the unique experience of listening, rather than reading, of merging author and work. The distance that usually exists between the two was broken down on Thursday night, and afforded listeners a glimpse of the human, rather than the mystified, author. This is an invaluable experience for aspiring writers, bringing excitement and interest to writing and telling stories.