These short stories are about the alienations and depression inherent in ordinary relationships. Angst and existential alienation are themes in most of these insightful and sorrowful tales.
ALL THE WAY TO FLAGSTAFF ARIZONA is about a down and out alcoholic. He reminisces about his drinking days when he had a family and his need to always have alcohol around to make it all bearable. Though things may have been bearable to him when he drank, time with him took on a nightmare quality for others.
POLICE DREAMS is about an average man in an average relationship. He has a dream that portends his wife leaving him. She does leave him and never lets him know why though she blames it all on him. He finds himself in the abyss of loneliness and unsurety.
THE WIFE'S TALE is about a young girl who is heartbroken at the thought of her older sister's impending marriage. Her sister is a dancer and the young girl views her as extraordinary. By getting married, the younger sister sees her as becoming merely ordinary.
CONTRITION is about a man who, in a fit of anger, commits a felony. He hits a student and loses his teaching job.
ANCIENT HISORY is about a socially isolated young man and his recently widowed mother who spend Christmas with his father's sister. The young man has a feeling that before his father's death, he was about to leave his mother.
WHAT FEELS LIKE THE WORLD is about a resolute and tenacious overweight young girl who wants to be like the other kids in her class and perform a gymnastic trick. She keeps dieting but realizes she will probably not be able to perform the gymnastic trick that she wants to. Her grandfather, who is raising her, becomes heart-broken. Her resolution to succeed becomes his despair.
THE MAN WHO KNEW BELLE STARR is about a man who picks up a teen-age girl hitch-hiker. He's recently been released from prison. He fantasizes about the girl. She turns out to be a psychopathic killer intent on being 'Belle Starr'. She kills the owner of a diner and the man realized that he, too, will become her victim. There is an inevitable, yet meaningless, quality to this realization.
SPIRITS tells of a young faculty member who meets and is intellectually and politically courted by a famous academic for deceitful reasons. Relationships are examined. Naturally, the truth is disparate from what appears to be the case.
All the stories are interesting and well-written. If you are a short story buff, I highly recommend this collection. Bausch is also a marvelous author of novels. I highly recommend Mr. Field's Daughter: A Novel and The Last Good Time.