THE WATCH by Rick Bass (Norton:...

THE WATCH by Rick Bass (Norton: $9.95; 190 pp.). Rick Bass' short stories have a quirky tone that distinguishes them from his more straightforward reportage. Unable to find a place in contemporary America, his characters gamely limp through life, despite physical and psychological afflictions. The crotchety narrator of "The Government Bears" sums up their attitude when he concludes, "There's a lady three miles down the road who handles snakes in her church services and I swear that takes less courage than to just duck your head and keep on doing what you are doing, the regular."

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