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Gryphon: New and Selected Storiesby Charles Baxter
Synopses & Reviews
Ever since the publication of The Harmony of the World in 1984, Charles Baxter has slowly gained a reputation as one of America's finest short-story writers. Each subsequentcollection--Through the Safety Net, A Relative Stranger, and Believers--was further confirmation of his mastery: his gift for capturing the immediate moment, forrevealing the unexpected in the ordinary, for showing how the smallest shock can pierce the heart of an intimacy. Gryphon brings together the best of Baxter's previous collections with sevennew stories, giving us the most complete portrait of his achievement.
Baxter once described himself as a Midwestern writer in a postmodern age at home in a terrain bestknown for its blandness, one that does not give up its secrets easily, whose residents don't always talk about what's on their mind, and where something out of the quotidian--some stress, theappearance of a stranger, or a knock on the window--may be all that's needed to force what lies underneath to the surface and to disclose a surprising impulse, frustration, or desire. Whether friends orstrangers, the characters in Baxter's stories share a desire--sometimes muted and sometimes fierce--to break through the fragile glass of convention. In the title story, a substitute teacherwalks into a new classroom, draws an outsized tree on the blackboard on a whim, and rewards her students by reading their fortunes using a Tarot deck. In each of the stories we see the delicate tension between what we wantto believe and what we need to believe.
By turns compassionate, gently humorous, and haunting, Gryphon proves William Maxwell's assertion that nobodycan touch Charles Baxter in the field that he has carved out for himself.
From the Hardcover edition.
From a writer whose work reminds one of how broad and deep and shining a story can be (Alice Munro), a selection that gathers the best from his four earlier collections as well as seven previously uncollected stories.
However different they are from one another, all of the people in Charles Baxter's stories share a desire--sometimes muted and sometimes fierce--to break through the fragile glass of convention. Take for instance the substitute teacher in the title story: walking into a new classroom, she decides that this room needs a tree and proceeds to draw an outsize tree on the blackboard; then she rewards the students by telling their fortunes using a Tarot deck. And so we are in the territory of Baxter's imagination, where the ordinary and the quotidian bump up against the eerie and the inexplicable, where the lyrical and the metaphysical coexist, and where the events that jolt his characters--whether they are catastrophic or almost imperceptible gestures--lead to equally unexpected, powerful, and moving effects.
William Maxwell once remarked that nobody can touch Baxter in the field that he has carved out for himself. This volume is the clearest articulation yet of Baxter's unique achievement.
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Charles Baxter is the author of the novels The Feast of Love (nominated for the National Book Award), The Soul Thief, Saul and Patsy, Shadow Play, and First Light, and the story collections Believers, A Relative Stranger, Through the Safety Net, and Harmony of the World. He lives in Minneapolis and teaches at the University of Minnesota and in the M.F.A. Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.
Table of Contents
The would-be father — Horace and Margaret's fifty-second — Harmony of the world — Winter journey — Surprised by joy — The eleventh floor — Gryphon — Fenstad's mother — Westland — Shelter — Snow — The disappeared — Kiss away — The next building I plan to bomb — Flood show — The cures for love — Poor devil — Ghosts — Royal blue — The old murderer — Mr. Scary — The cousins — The winter.
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