Gryphon: New and Selected Stories by Charles Baxter
Publication Date: January 2011
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
(Received for review from Pantheon)
Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Borders, IndieBound
If you live in Morehead, KY or the surrounding area:
Purchase from our local independent bookseller: CoffeeTree Books
Borrow from our local library: The Rowan County Public Library
Charles Baxter on the Web: Website, Facebook,
Excerpt from Gryphon
Synopsis (Barnes & Noble):
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 subsequent collection - Through the Safety Net, A Relative Stranger, and Believers - was further confirmation of his mastery: his gift for capturing the immediate moment, for the revealing 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 seven new 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 best known 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, the appearance 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 a surprising impulse, frustration, or desire. Whether friends or strangers, 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 teacher walks into a new classroom, draws and 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 want to believe and what we need to believe.
This book was very much out of my comfort zone. When I agreed to review it, I did so because I wanted to try something different and this book was totally out of the scope of what I normally read. Charles Baxter is a prolific writer of short fiction. He has written several collections and his latest book, Gryphon is comprised of some of his best stories, along with seven new ones. Since I had never read Baxter before all of the stories were new to me.
I have to admit that I don't read many short stories as I prefer something a bit longer and more substantial. However, I found several of Baxter's stories very interesting. But, I found myself feeling that there should have been more to each one. That in itself is a compliment to the writer. I wanted to know more about these characters, learn more about their experiences. I almost felt a bit cheated at certain points in the book for that reason.
Baxter writes with a flare for the extraordinary. The things that make the average day suddenly become something more... something different. Each of the stories in this collection seemed to hinge on that one moment in time that can absolutely turn your world on end, when you do something totally unexpected or when something strange and eerie happens to you. I thought that each experience in each of the stories was meticulously written and detailed. It's amazing that an author can convey so much in such a small amount of time and words.
Baxter is considered one of best writer's of short fiction in America and it was easy for me to see that, through this collection. Though it wasn't really my cup of tea it was interesting and very well done. I would recommend this one to readers who love short fiction and to those that want to give it a try. Baxter is one of the best.
Gryphon is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag! Just because it isn't a good fit for me, doesn't mean it isn't a very well written book...
Of Charles Baxter's fiction, Ron Hanson wrote in The New York Times Book Review, "Baxter's stories are intelligent, original, gracefully written, always moving, frequently funny and -- the rarest of compliments -- wise."