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Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction

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Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

"Lately I've been possessed of a singularly unhappy idea: The greatest influence on American fiction for the last twenty years may have been Richard Nixon."

What happens to American fiction in a time when villains are deprived of their villainy; when our consumer culture insists on happy endings? Did Richard Nixon start a trend of dysfunctional narration that is now rife throughout fiction? In Burning Down the House, Baxter delves into the social and political circumstances that influence today's "urgent issues of storytelling." Baxter invites unexpected connections: between gossip and characterization; between Puritanism, consumerism, and epiphanies; between violence and data processing. By asking readers to "explore the imagination's grip on daily life and how one lives in the pressure of that grip," Baxter offers a unique perspective into the reading and writing of contemporary fiction.

Review:

"[Baxter] employs dry wit and impassioned prose to examine some unfortunate fashions of modern fiction....[B]racing rather than incendiary, provocative rather than destructive." Publishers Weekly

Review:

"Charles Baxter has a wicked talent for epigram that rarely surfaces in his fiction but serves his collection of essays admirably....This collection is not a rigorous work of literary criticism, but it is a pleasure to read, and it performs an important function..." Emily Barton, The New York Times Book Review

Review:

"The most pleasurable and instructive book on the craft since John Gardner's The Art of Fiction." City Pages

Review:

"In nine brilliant essays, Baxter displays his characteristic wit and intelligence as he muses about the influences of culture and politics on the art of storytelling." Ploughshares

Review:

"What elevates this collection from the status of technical manual (which it also is, and a brilliant one at that) is Mr. Baxter's rare ability to gauge the capacities of fiction for conveying an image not only of individual existence, but of the characteristic feel of a time, a culture, a way of life." The Washington Times

Review:

"Readers are rewarded with great one-liners, thoughtful ruminations on the state of literature, and plenty of brush fires that continue burning long after the book is closed." The San Francisco Bay Guardian

Synopsis:

In this book, Baxter offers several sharp, articulate, and provocative essays that examine the many forces currently shaping contemporary American fiction. As noted in The Washington Times: "What elevates this collection from the status of technical manual (which it also is, and a brilliant one at that) is Mr. Baxter's rare ability to gauge the capacities of fiction for conveying an image not only of individual existence, but of the characteristic feel of a time, a culture, a way of life."

About the Author

Charles Baxter is also the author of First Light, Shadow Play, Harmony of the World, Through the Safety Net, A Relative Stranger, Believers, and Imaginary Paintings and was recently honored with an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Felicity, July 8, 2009 (view all comments by Felicity)
These nine essays center on problems with contemporary literary fiction. Really, I promise that's not as dry or negative as it sounds. The book challenges writers to recognize and break rules and habits engrained in writing culture, and by so doing tell great stories. It is often funny, beautiful, and thought-provoking.

Also, it's painfully quotable. I used around twenty Book Darts.

I suppose I can't say that and then give no sample quotes. Here goes:
"All moralizing implies some knowledge of the future."

"As a result, many young writers, and perhaps experienced ones as well, may be reluctant to have conflicts or plots in any form in their stories because they fear that such elements will be branded as melodramatic, vulgar and cheap."

"There is such a thing as the poetry of a mistake, and when you say, 'Mistakes were made,' you deprive an action of its poetry, and you sound like a weasel."
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(4 of 8 readers found this comment helpful)

Product Details

ISBN:
9781555972707
Subtitle:
Essays on Fiction
Publisher:
Graywolf Press
Author:
Baxter, Charles
Subject:
Essays
Subject:
History & Criticism *
Subject:
History and criticism
Subject:
American fiction
Subject:
General Literary Criticism & Collections
Subject:
American fiction -- 20th century.
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
February 1998
Binding:
Paperback
Language:
English
Pages:
248
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.50 in

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Anthologies » Essays
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General
Reference » General
Reference » Writing » General

Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 248 pages Graywolf Press - English 9781555972707 Reviews:
"Review" by , "[Baxter] employs dry wit and impassioned prose to examine some unfortunate fashions of modern fiction....[B]racing rather than incendiary, provocative rather than destructive."
"Review" by , "Charles Baxter has a wicked talent for epigram that rarely surfaces in his fiction but serves his collection of essays admirably....This collection is not a rigorous work of literary criticism, but it is a pleasure to read, and it performs an important function..."
"Review" by , "The most pleasurable and instructive book on the craft since John Gardner's The Art of Fiction."
"Review" by , "In nine brilliant essays, Baxter displays his characteristic wit and intelligence as he muses about the influences of culture and politics on the art of storytelling."
"Review" by , "What elevates this collection from the status of technical manual (which it also is, and a brilliant one at that) is Mr. Baxter's rare ability to gauge the capacities of fiction for conveying an image not only of individual existence, but of the characteristic feel of a time, a culture, a way of life."
"Review" by , "Readers are rewarded with great one-liners, thoughtful ruminations on the state of literature, and plenty of brush fires that continue burning long after the book is closed."
"Synopsis" by ,
In this book, Baxter offers several sharp, articulate, and provocative essays that examine the many forces currently shaping contemporary American fiction. As noted in The Washington Times: "What elevates this collection from the status of technical manual (which it also is, and a brilliant one at that) is Mr. Baxter's rare ability to gauge the capacities of fiction for conveying an image not only of individual existence, but of the characteristic feel of a time, a culture, a way of life."
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