Frederick Busch Busch, Frederick (Vol. 10)

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(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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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 about and say. If they have any dignity it is because they are allowed to speak out of their feelings. (p. 468)

This novel has many … moments when its characters do things we almost wish for the sake of decorum they would not do, and then we realize that it is the same humanness that made them such victims which has now provided them with the gestures to express their victimization. It is an honest, angry, compassionate work, written with all the specificities of technique of the new novelists, but nowhere simply doing things for the sake of showing off. Domestic Particulars is committed to its strong subject matter, like people in a hostile integration, and to the air and light of particular days in Brooklyn, or on the upper West Side, to the look of the hills at sunset in upper New York State, or the complaining inner voice of Claire as she remembers a friend from her Greenwich Village days….

This is not just another family novel; we do not come away from it feeling reconciled, or at peace with ourselves. What is radical to the work is its insistence on the separateness of these three lives, its painful understanding that so much was self-inflicted in an indifferent world not out of love but lovelessness, its awareness of bitterness and defeats, without redemption, and its sense of the littleness, the pettiness, the meanness of these characters that does not, oddly enough, demean them but gives them whatever stature they may have.

Publication of this work should bring Busch the larger audience he deserves. Of novelists under 40 in this country, he is one of the very few active practitioners who can combine an astonishing use of language with a really first-rate memory; he is brilliant, imaginative, and more often than not, just. (p. 469)

Richard Elman, "Specific Instances of Pain," in The Nation (copyright 1976 by the Nation Associates, Inc.), November 6, 1976, pp. 468-69.

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 poetic. (p. 101)

Manual Labor is a novel about rebuilding a marriage, the sheer effort involved in renovating two lives. Physical work and emotional energy are expended, and the toil is exhausting. The title becomes a metaphor which reflects not only the work by...

(The entire section is 3,656 words.)