Home     About     Contact     

Elevating the Ordinary

Gryphon: New and Selected Stories, Charles Baxter, Pantheon Books (2011) I have had the pleasure of hearing Charles Baxter read his work many times. He is very often introduced as a rock star of the short story. Another assertion is that he is regionalized. The stories are grounded in the Midwest and generally peopled with likable characters that lead small lives in which ordinary and yet poignant things happen. I often feel that I too am a Baxter character. Gryphon is a collection of twenty-three stories, new and selected. I have read these stories without hurry or care to reach the end; only to be astounded by the steady unveiling of character, spot on dialogue and the unembellished articulation of what it means to be human. The … [Read more...]

Carnival Darwinism

Swamplandia!, Karen Russell author, Knopf (2011) It’s hard to get your bearings in Swamplandia! The story is a fantasy that is partially narrated by the book's protagonist, a thirteen year old girl, Ava Bigtree. This is not material that would normally interest me, but when it came highly recommended by a trusted source, off I went with the Bigtree family and their odd assortment of calamities. Forebear of the Bigtree clan, Grandpa Sawtooth Bigtree, née Ernest Schedrach, was born the son of a white coal miner in Ohio, who, after losing his pulp mill job bought ‘farmland’ off the coast of southwest Florida, sight unseen. It turned out to be mostly covered by water with a small habitable island (part of the Ten Thousand Islands) and he … [Read more...]

Reading Truman Capote

Tap-Dancing Across Genres –  When a part of my bookshelf came off its hinges, I emptied the shelf, removed it from the wall and put a picture in its place. Looking at the odd assortment of books on the floor, I endeavored to expand the project. Soon great stacks had to be negotiated in order to move from one end of the room to another. It was during the weeding out process (antiquated nonfiction like the Encyclopedia Britannica, Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care, texts on economics, perennial gardens and human health were to be boxed and donated ) that I came across In Cold Blood.  I had always meant to read In Cold Blood, but I was afraid of the material. Scary stuff, I thought. My edition was hardbound and dusty, the paper book sleeve … [Read more...]