By Adrian Ernesto Cepeda
A certain friend of WordTheatre®, author Charles Baxter, has a new short story collection, There’s Something I Want You To Do, out and getting rave reviews. Over the years Baxter has written five novels, two books of essays on the writing craft, three poetry collections and six other works of short fiction. It is an impressive biography that gives justice to his genius. It is from his pen, after all, that came such legendary lines as “Moon-drunk music, mad and inconsolable”, so if you have yet to fall into his worlds, now is the time to do so. You have quite a wide selection to choose from.
I first discovered the renaissance writer that is Baxter when I read his classic poem “Please Marry Me.” As a poet myself, he became an instant favorite after that instance. Sadly, for those attached to his poetry it doesn’t seem that any new collections will be forthcoming. When asked by The Washington Post if he still writes poetry, Baxter replied, “I still write poetry sometimes, but usually for the desk drawer. After my last book of poems, Imaginary Paintings, came out around 1993, I decided not to write poetry for publication anymore. I do miss it sometimes, but I came to feel that I was writing crypto-stories in the poems, which were filled with narrative and characterization that would be better served in prose.”
It is an understandable notion, and as Baxter has shown a mastery of the short story form, it is a move that should not be feared. WordTheatre has been honored to perform several of his stories, in fact, including his story “Gina’s Death” read by Carla Gugino, which is available on our collection WordTheatre: Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses Volume 2. Well, this latest collection continues to show his expertise as he elegantly renders such unique moments into the glue that forms communities. The ten inter-related stories in There’s Something I Want You to Do are penetrating and prophetic. All of them are held together by a surreal and intricate web of cause and effect—one that slowly ensnares both fictional bystanders and enraptured readers.
There’s Benny, an architect and hopeless romantic, who is robbed on his daily walk along the Mississippi River, and the blow of a baseball bat to the back of his knee feels like a strike from God. Then there’s a drug dealer named Black Bird who reads Othello while waiting for customers in a bar. There’s even a piece about the ghost of Alfred Hitchcock making nightly appearances to Elijah, a pediatrician and father of two. It’s as Charles Baxter told Fiction Writers Review: “Everything is possible in a short story.”
What’s exceptional about this author of WordTheatre, is that he always has you in mind as he writes. He once told Center of Fiction, “My favorite kind of person is someone who can’t stop talking about books. Writers are fine. But it’s the readers I love.” It’s official, Charles Baxter loves you, and we at WordTheatre urge you to embrace the poetically penetrating world within There’s Something I Want You To Do. There’s no doubt that you will definitely connect to the perfect prose of Charles Baxter.
image credit: Photo by Keri Pickett for The New York Times