cover image The Watch: Stories

The Watch: Stories

Rick Bass. W. W. Norton & Company, $16.95 (190pp) ISBN 978-0-393-02623-8

In muscular, masculine prose, Bass ( Wild to the Heart , The Deer Pasture ) bears witness to the remnants of the American outback in his tales about men, their buddies and their women in the swamps of Mississippi, the wilds of Utah and Montana, and on the Texas coast. Complex, compelling and expressed in a unique and powerful voice, Bass's best stories are superb. Standouts are the title story, about an old bayou black hiding out from his son, and ``In Ruth's Country,'' an extraordinary evocation of the wild, harsh freedom of the American landscape and its disjunction with man-made oppression and repression. But when his grasp is less sure, the stories are off-balance and inconclusive, composed of disjointed observations collected in episodic paragraphs. These failings notwithstanding, Bass is a writer of great power and promise who casts novel and revealing light on the American male experience. (Jan.)