The Feast of Love

Charles Baxter, Author
Charles Baxter, Author Pantheon Books $24 (320p) ISBN 978-0-375-41019-2
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-375-70910-4
Compact Disc - 978-1-59777-144-3
Paperback - 308 pages - 978-0-307-38727-1
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-1-59007-502-9
Compact Disc - 978-1-59007-503-6
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-02414-4
Paperback - 308 pages - 978-1-84115-638-5
Open Ebook - 192 pages - 978-0-307-56569-3
Hardcover - 308 pages - 978-1-84115-637-8
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Baxter (First Light, Harmony of the World, Believers) has for too long been a writer's writer whose books have enjoyed more admirers than sales. Pantheon appears confident that his new novel can be his breakout work. It certainly deserves to be. In a buoyant, eloquent and touching narrative, Baxter breaks rules blithely as he goes along, and the reader's only possible response is to realize how absurd rules can be. Baxter begins, for example, as himself, the author, waking in the middle of the night and going out onto the predawn streets of Ann Arbor (where Baxter in fact lives). Meeting a neighbor, Bradley Smith, with his dog, also called Bradley, he is told the first of the spellbinding stories of love--erotic, wistful, anxious, settled, ecstatic and perverse--that make up the book, woven seamlessly together so they form a virtuosic ensemble performance. The small cast includes Bradley, who runs the local coffee shop called Jitters; Diana, a tough-minded lawyer and customer he unwisely marries after the breakup of his first marriage to dog-phobic Kathryn; Diana's dangerous lover, David; Chloe and Oscar, two much-pierced punksters who are also Jitters people and who enjoy the kind of sensual passion older people warn will never last, but that for them lasts beyond the grave; Oscar's evil and lustful dad; philosophy professor Ginsberg, who pines for his missing and beloved son, Aaron; and Margaret, the black emergency room doctor with whom Bradley eventually finds a kind of peace. The action takes place over an extended period, but such is the magic of Baxter's telling that it seems to be occurring in the author's mind on that one heady midsummer night. His special gift is to catch the exact pitch of a dozen voices in an astutely observed group of contemporary men and women, yet retain an authorial presence capable of the most exquisite shadings of emotion and passion, longing and regret. Some magical things seem to happen, even in Ann Arbor, but the true magic in this luminous book is the seemingly effortless ebb and flow of the author's clear-sighted yet deeply poetic vision. 30,000 first printing; 10-city author tour. (May)
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