Books: At Play in Fields of Energy

OIL NOTES by Rick Bass; Houghton Mifflin/Seymour Lawrence

172 pages; $16.95

Rick Bass was a fence post in his third-grade play. His father still calls him "Animal." As a petroleum geologist around Jackson, Miss., he drove a lot but was hard on automobiles. After he steered one company car into shallow water, the boss sent him a 20-ft. length of chain for Christmas. Bass acknowledges his clumsiness: "Sometimes I feel almost out of control." But he glories in a rare natural gift: "I know how to find oil."

As readers of Bass's stories (collected this year in The Watch) can attest,...

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