Robert Bausch (1945–2018)


Robert Bausch was a novelist and short-story writer who earned particular notice for A Hole in the Earth (a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 2001) and for Almighty Me! (1991). Though he said that his childhood was happy and stable, his work often investigated family relationships that were painful, strained, or flawed. Born at Fort Benning, Georgia, and raised near Washington, D.C., Bausch taught writing at a number of colleges and universities, including at Northern Virginia Community College near Washington, D.C. His identical twin brother is the novelist Richard Bausch.

One of six children, Robert Charles Bausch was born April 18, 1945, into a devout Catholic family in which storytelling was prized. Educated at George Mason University in Fairfax County, Bausch served in the U.S. Air Force and worked at a number of jobs, including taxi driver and salesman, before becoming a teacher of writing in 1975. He taught at various times at George Mason University, American University in Washington, D.C., the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. His first novel, On the Way Home, was published in 1982. Like The Lives of Riley Chance, published two years later, it earned praise from major newspapers such as the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.

With Almighty Me!, Bausch presented a protagonist who has been temporarily granted the power of God but lacks the wisdom to wield it effectively. Charlie Wiggins uses his yearlong omnipotence in ways that are often hilarious but also inadvertently create destruction, including the deaths of several people. Before the book was published, Bausch sold the film rights to Disney for $200,000. In 2003—more than a decade later—Universal Studios and Spyglass Entertainment released Bruce Almighty. While similar to Bausch’s novel, the film does not credit him. And although Disney had supposedly promised him another $100,000 after the completion of principal photography and another $100,000 after the movie was released along with five percent of the net profits, Bausch never saw this money. He considered legal action, but a suit was never filed.

In 1995, Bausch published a collection of short fiction, The White Rooster and Other Stories, which won a prize for the most distinguished fiction from the Dictionary of Literary Biography. Publishers Weekly called these stories “testaments to the human capacity to feel and connect in an emotionally alienating world.” They investigate a range of characters, from a twenty-three-year-old mourning his mother’s death to a former cop who burglarizes his neighbors’ houses.

With A Hole in the Earth, Bausch used the life and character of his father (whom he describes as being “right about most things”) as the inspiration for a story about a man who seems wrong about most things: Henry Porter is a compulsive gambler and a failed father who is unable to cope with the consequences of his behavior. George Garrett praised the novel for its fully dimensional characters and “style … as clean and clear as spring water.” Bausch followed up with The Gypsy Man (2002) and Out of Season (2005), which is set in Columbia Beach, Maryland, during the tourist off-season and tracks the painful reunion of a father with his son, who had years before caused the accidental death of his younger brother.

Bausch served on the board of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation and as an adviser to the literary magazine Peeks and Valleys. A marriage to Geri Marrese ended in divorce. He was married to Denise Natt Bausch from 1982 until his death. Robert Bausch died on October 9, 2018, in Fredericksburg.

Major Works

  • On the Way Home: A Novel (1982)
  • The Lives of Riley Chance: A Novel (1984)
  • Almighty Me!: A Novel (1991)
  • The White Rooster and Other Stories (1995)
  • A Hole in the Earth: A Novel (2001)
  • The Gypsy Man: A Novel (2002)
  • Out of Season: A Novel (2005)

April 18, 1945
Richard Bausch is born at Fort Benning, Georgia, into a devout Roman Catholic family. He has an identical twin, Robert Bausch.
Robert Bausch's first novel, On the Way Home, is published.
October 9, 2018
Robert Bausch dies at a hospital in Fredericksburg.
APA Citation:
Howsare, Erika. Robert Bausch (1945–2018). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/bausch-robert-1945-2018.
MLA Citation:
Howsare, Erika. "Robert Bausch (1945–2018)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 12 Jul. 2024
Last updated: 2021, December 22
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