Author Richard Bausch was once told that he had a catastrophic imagination. “If my personal life was a fraction of what it is for my characters,” he says, “I would have had a heart attack at age 12. My personal life is really dull. I get up in the morning, have a cup of coffee and write.”
But it's his interest in all things trouble that's propelled him to write 11 critically acclaimed novels and several more books of short stories, make regular contributions to magazines such as The New Yorker and land the Moss chair of excellence in English at the University of Memphis.
Alcoholism, the disintegration of marriage, war — Bausch is interested in all kinds of trouble. “I tell students, ‘Always add more trouble. See where it takes you.’” His most recent novel, “Peace,” centers on three soldiers and an old man who've just witnessed a terrible act of violence and are stuck on a mountaintop in the snow during World War II.
Bausch's short story “Aren't You Happy for Me?” was selected to be read as one of four shorts in the sixth annual Virginia Arts and Letters Live. That's because it's pitch perfect, director Irene Ziegler says. “Where it is funny, it is hilarious, where it is sad, it is heartbreaking. Like many of Bausch's stories, it is dialogue-heavy and character-driven, which makes it ideal for performance.”
Describing the course of a turbulent conversation between a young woman and her father about her upcoming marriage, “Aren't You Happy for Me,” originally published in 1994, was written in about a week — just for fun, Bausch says.
NPR's Carl Kasell, Irene Ziegler and local actors Joe Pabst and Laine Satterfield will perform a dramatic reading of “Aren't You Happy for Me?” at Virginia Arts and Letters Live, where short stories by R.H.W. Dillard, John Moe and Chad Edwards will also be featured. The Happy Lucky Combo will provide music for the performance at the Empire Theatre, 114 W. Broad St. on Saturday, March 28, at 8 p.m., and reception and proceeds from the show will benefit the Read Center. Tickets are $25. Visit www.barksdalerichmond.org or call 344-8040.