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MochaMike

MochaMike

Currently reading

Swann's Way
Marcel Proust, Lydia Davis
Mating
Norman Rush
The Unknown University
Roberto Bolaño, Laura Healy
Postmodern Belief: American Literature and Religion since 1960 (20/21)
Amy Hungerford
The Fun Stuff: And Other Essays
James Wood
Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction - Charles Baxter 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 as writers. 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.