Archive for the ‘May, 2011’ Category

Charles Baxter and Neo-Luddites

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

FD is reading a new collection of short stories by Charles Baxter, Gryphon.  Baxter is perhaps better known as a novelist than as a short story writer.  In 2000, his novel The Feast of Love was nominated for a (US) National Book Award, but lost to Susan Sontag’s In America (the National Book Award folks have a nice website, here).  FD has read The Feast of Love, and now a decade later remembered it fondly enough to pick up this collection of short stories from the public library. I am enjoying Baxter’s short stories more than I did the novel.  In Baxter’s stories sometimes things happen, sometimes not too much happens, but all the characters, even the crazy and those who are not very nice, are treated with the same gentleness that we all crave from life.  Bad things do happen in Baxter’s world, but there’s a sense of kindness and gentleness that seems larger than any particular person or event.  The world Baxter creates is a wonderful place to visit, and makes one look around one’s own world hoping to find an equal amount of compassion, or at least to be able to extend that compassion toward others.

Like all(?) modern writers, Baxter has web site.  Sigh. FD is also reading a book about our relationship to technology, Nicols Fox’s Against the Machine. FD is attracted to many of the strands of Neo-Luddite thought, and wants to think carefully about how much of life one gives up to technology.  Of course there is a whole genre of books in this vein, all of which — like Fox’s own — probably have a web site!  But somehow, it feels a little sad that writers have to participate so energetically in the wired world.