Friday, August 24, 2007

Book #39 The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot by Charles Baxter

This was my first Charles Baxter experience. Like many other MN writers, I drool over the fact that he is but a few miles away teaching at the elusive University of Minnesota. The Art of Subtext is a heady, heady book. It is not a "how to" of writing; rather the book assumes that you really know what you're doing in the writing field and it examines and adds to some of the conventions of fiction writing.

Baxter divides his thoughts into such topics as "staging," "listening," "inflection," and, most interesting, "the face." Writers will find his discussion of including subtext rather than pounding the reader with plot thought-provoking.

Writers looking for exercises or practical advice on how to write, handle a particular problem in writing, etc. will not find it here. His use of many other writers both modern and classic (Lorrie Moore and George Saunders to Dostoyevsky and Dickens) to illustrate the points he makes are extremely helpful, as are the personal stories Baxter includes from his own life, to writers who are looking to fine tune work that already has legs.

Reading this book was, I think, much like the experience of sitting in on a Baxter lecture would be. The chapters are "teachery"--an attention-getting story, the lesson, examples to support the lesson, and some final thoughts. All in all, a very interesting read.

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