October 15, 1984 12:00 PM

by Frederick Busch

Short stories do not have to be artsy, obtuse, New Yorker-style intelligence tests. They can be entertaining tales about real people. Busch’s people in these 10 captivating pieces are mostly men who have grown up in all ways but one—they still can’t quite figure out how to live. In “The News,” a reporter quits his job and drives off, full of romance, to a former girlfriend’s house just because she sent him a postcard. In “Defense,” a former college football player whose best skill was running backwards, tries gridiron tactics on women. And in “A History of Small Ideas,” a wife can tell that her new husband is nervous about visiting his parents because he’s avoiding the subject: he’s in “his Theoretical Condition…talking about a suspected Black Hole at the center of the Milky Way.” Only the last story, “Stand, and Be Recognized,” an experimental tale about a draft dodger—told from two perspectives—is unrewardingly cool. In the others, Busch gives you people worth caring about, even if they do take a few wrong turns. His stories are full of perfect details—the smell of a town whose principal industry is manufacturing cold cream, the aging hippie turned antique dealer wearing a Rolling Stones T-shirt. Unlike many trendy short-story writers, Busch shows his talent without showing off. (Godine, $15.95)

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