Frederick Busch Critical Essays


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Busch, Frederick 1941–

Busch is an American novelist, short story writer, critic, and editor. His self-professed major concerns in writing are characterization and point of view, and his fiction has been praised for its precise use of language and uncluttered prose style. The basic, elemental aspects of life, particularly family relationships, form the subject matter of much of Busch's fiction. (See also CLC, Vol. 7, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 33-36, rev. ed.)

Richard Elman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Domestic Particulars is a story of unspectacular martyrdoms, senseless sacrifices, of the endurance of long subway rides that end up nowhere except in front of dimly lighted houses behind shrubbery, of the cold of the marriage bed, and the stoicisms of a depression-minded generation, the specific betrayals of energy and excitement that result from the squandering of lives for caution's sake….

Domestic Particulars is not an exhaustive treatise but a series of primary scenes, rich in incident and feeling, that seem to give the temperature of lives, and show the way they have been turning. Busch, who is one of our finest short story writers, is not ashamed of what his characters talk...

(The entire section is 434 words.)

Donald J. Greiner

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Busch's] first books, I Wanted a Year Without Fall (1971) and Breathing Trouble (1973), will become known as apprentice fiction, books in which he begins his tentative explorations of unspectacular lives surviving small but numbing crises. They are serviceable fictions that will be discussed and analyzed in future years as introductions to what may develop into a significant canon. With Manual Labor (1974) and Domestic Particulars (1976), however, Busch shows his mastery of familial frustration, his control of the sacrifices, misunderstandings, and love which make up the daily routine for most of us. The metaphors are convincing, the reading experience painful, the prose precise yet...

(The entire section is 1154 words.)

John Romano

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Something] exciting is going on in Busch's work that isn't going on anywhere else. Some of his virtues are old-fashioned enough: he's a superb storyteller, and he makes up people he cares about greatly. But finally his talent is anomalous, and the nature of his achievement is peculiarly hard to describe.

One way to begin is by taking note of a paradox that virtually rules contemporary taste in the arts. As an afternoon of gallery-going or a week of off-Broadway will show you, the approved formula for a new work, according to this paradoxical law, is that it should contain inverse proportions of emotional intensity and representation. In other words, great intensity is okay, if the art isn't...

(The entire section is 1232 words.)

Nicholas Delbanco

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The Mutual Friend] is a venturesome novel, a substantial achievement, and it should be widely read. For the author of Manual Labor and Domestic Particulars, this new work represents a change. The previous books were in some sense family documents—intensely personal texts, charged with contemporary discourse and present problems. Busch seemed a kind of poet of claustrophobia. Whether writing of the city or farm, in Brooklyn or New England's hills, he stayed very close to the bone. His characters had Breathing Trouble, as in an early title; he cut tight, constricting circles, and had his people leashed.

Now the circles have enlarged. The Mutual Friend, as its name...

(The entire section is 528 words.)

Roger Sale

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The subject of Frederick Busch's intelligent, careful, often brilliant, but inert novel ["The Mutual Friend"] is Charles Dickens, the driven dying Dickens of 1867–70 as summoned up by Dolby, his tour manager and companion, as he himself is dying 30 years later, a charity case in a Fulham hospital….

It is a serious and scrupulous fiction Mr. Busch has concocted…. There are no elaborate set pieces of Victoriana, no huggermugger "vivid sights and sounds" where we might expect to find Oliver Twist or Pip walking down the street. Nor does Mr. Busch attempt to do a version of the Victorian novel, à la "The French Lieutenant's Woman." This is a contemporary American novel, written by a man who once...

(The entire section is 238 words.)