Beware on this one! (Emphasis greatly exaggerated). Don’t believe the reviewers on this title—believe Baxter, the author. Many reviewers (and I suspect they are authors or aspiring authors) suggest that their interests in this title is what the title is about—consequently, you’ll see many reviewers describe Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction
as a book for writers, on writing as a ‘craft’ (as if this book has how-to potential), or on the act
of writing fiction. These reviewers aren’t lying to you or trying to deceive you in any way; none of them seem malicious or poorly informed. Instead, they see what Baxter’s collection offers them.
Other reviewers seem more inclined to believe Baxter’s explicit subtitle: Essays on Fiction. The essays have as much to offer readers
. Baxter clearly delights in reading and writing. In this he is rather like James Wood (a personal favorite) pointing to the well-placed word or phrase or sentence and shouting: Look at this! Isn’t this something? or Check this out!
For me, this is the best kind of criticism, a writer/reader/critic sharing what’s has caught his or her eyes in a particular work and describing how those elements work
with enthusiasm and from an informed perspective.
I’d prefer to give this title four-and-a-half stars, not because it has faults or flaws, but because I wish there was more of it.