Interview with Charles Baxter

Radio Book Tour braves the center of winter–Minneapolis St Paul to be exact[ in the bleakest month of January 2018 to visit one of that city’s favorite sons, Charles Baxter.
Baxter is the author of four notable novels–
Shadow Play (1993). As his wife does gymnastics and magic tricks, his crazy mother invents her own vocabulary, and his aunt writes her own version of the Bible, Five Oaks Assistant City Manager Wyatt Palmer tries to live a normal life and nearly succeeds, but…
The Feast of Love (2000) (Pantheon Books), a reimagined Midsummer Night’s Dream, a story told through the eyes of several different people.[1] Nominated for the National Book Award. A film version of the book, starring Morgan Freeman, Fred Ward and Greg Kinnear and directed by Robert Benton, was released in 2007.
Saul and Patsy (2003). A teacher’s marriage and identity are threatened by a dangerously obsessed teenage boy at his school.
The Soul Thief (2008). A graduate student’s complicated relationships lead to a disturbing case of identity theft, which ultimately leads the man to wonder if he really is who he thinks he is.
Baxter has also turned his hand to essay writing with a superb collection of essays entitled Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction (1997)

He is also a masterful short story writer–his collections include Gryphon (1985)
A Relative Stranger (1990)
Believers (1997), a novella
Gryphon: New and Selected Stories (2011)
There’s Something I Want You to Do: Stories (February 2015)

Charles Baxter is not what some might refer to as a prolific writer. He spends years on his books perfecting their plot and language to an exquisite degree so that these books will last. It has not been an easy journey–as Ploughshares has reported
“Getting published was a test of endurance. ” Baxter  ” remembers asking one agent what do you think of my novel?’ And she said, ‘I hate it.’ And then she said, ‘Tell me why I hate it.’ And I said, ‘Julie, I don’t know why you hate my novel.’ She said, ‘Oh, you must, you wrote it. Tell me why I hate it. Is it the characters? Is it the setting? I just don’t understand any of it. Help me out here. Why do I hate your novel?’ It was an amazing phone call. And I kept having experiences like that. This person I knew on the West Coast read one of my novels and said, ‘Well, maybe your imagination’s poisoned right at the source.’ ” From those difficult experiences of rejection
he “took apart his baroque, experimental style and taught himself craft. In rereading Joyce, Chekhov, O’Connor, Woolf, Porter, and Evan S. Connell, he also learned something else: “that fiction didn’t need to be about extraordinary things. It could be about ordinary things, ordinary lives that I had spent my adult life observing.” It was a long apprenticeship — his friend, the novelist Robert Boswell, has admitted him into a club called The Slow Learners — but Baxter was disciplined and diligent, and eventually his work began receiving recognition.”

We talked in the Podcast that goes for a very quick 50 minutes or so,  about a large range of topics including his home city of Minneapolis and his views on fellow writers like Richard Ford, Jonathan Franzen and Philip Roth. Baxter has written about Franzen’s novel, Freedom for the NYRB which you can find here. We discuss some of his novels particularly the widely acclaimed Feast of Love.
Sit back and enjoy the visit with one of America’s foremost writers.

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