Charles Baxter Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Charles Baxter has written such novels as First Light (1987) and Shadow Play: A Novel (1993) and the collection of poetry Imaginary Paintings and Other Poems (1989). In addition, Baxter writes fine literary nonfiction, including his essays on imagination and daily life collected in Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction (1997).


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Editors consistently select Charles Baxter’s stories for the annual The Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize, and Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards. He won the Associated Writing Programs Award in 1984 for his first collection of fiction and has been awarded National Endowment for the Arts and Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund grants, as well as a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship. His list of awards also includes a Lawrence Foundation award, Michigan Author of the Year Award, and a Harvard Review award.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Baxter, Charles. “An Interview with Charles Baxter.” Interview by Kevin Breen. Poets and Writers 22 (September, 1994): 60. An interview focusing on Baxter’s creation of characters. Especially useful for fiction writers trying to refine their craft.

Baxter, Charles. Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction. Saint Paul, Minn.: Graywolf Press, 1997. In nine essays, written with humor, insight, and care, Baxter explores the relationship between imagination and daily life, the way characters develop, and his ideas about fiction. An important collection for anyone who wants to know more about Baxter and his art.

Griffiths, Sarah, and Kevin J. Kehrwald. Delicious Imaginations: Conversations with Contemporary Writers. West Lafayette, Ind.: NotaBell Books, 1998. Provides a chapter-length interview with Baxter, who shares his ideas about the writing of fiction. Other chapters include interviews with such important contemporary writers as Larry Brown, Rick Bass, and Robert Olen Butler.

Van Wert, William F. “Charles Baxter and the Rites of Fiction.” Michigan Quarterly Review 38 (Winter, 1999): 135-143. A review of Believers and Burning Down the House offering close and convincing analyses of “Flood Show,” “Kiss Away,” “Reincarnation,” and “Saul and Patsy Are in Labor,” as well as examining some of the features of fiction Baxter explores in his book of essays.

Winans, Molly. “Bigger than We Think: The World Revealed in Charles Baxter’s Fiction.” Commonweal 124 (November 7, 1997): 12-16. Argues that Baxter’s best work is his short fiction, a genre that allows him to develop interesting characters and small truths in the exploration of the ordinary. Compares Baxter to other short-story writers such as Frank O’Connor and Flannery O’Connor. Suggests that Baxter’s stories can be discussed in “theological terms” including forgiveness, sin, and faith.