There's Something I Want You To Do: Stories (Pantheon Books)
From one of the great masters of the contemporary short story, here is an astonishing collection that showcases Charles Baxter'sunique ability to unveil the remarkable in the seemingly inconsequential moments of an eerie yet familiar life.
Penetrating and prophetic, the ten inter-related stories in There's Something I Want You to Do are held together by a surreally intricate web of cause and effect--one that slowly ensnares both fictional bystanders and enraptured readers. Benny, an architect and hopeless romantic, 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. A drug dealer named Black Bird reads "Othello" while waiting for customers in a bar. Elijah, a pediatrician and the father of two, is visited nightly by visions of Alfred Hitchcock. Meanwhile, a dog won't stop barking, a passenger on a transatlantic flight reads aloud from the book of Psalms during turbulence, and a scream carries itself through the early-morning Minneapolis air.
As the collection progresses, we delve more deeply into the private lives of these characters, exploring their fears, fantasies, and obsessions. They appear and reappear, performing praiseworthy and loathsome acts in equal measure in response to the request--or demand--lodged in each story's center. The result is a portrait of human nature as seen from the tightrope that spans the distance between dreams and waking life--a portrait that could have arisen only from Baxter's singular vision. Readers will be stunned by his uncanny understanding of human attraction and left to puzzle over the meaning of virtue and the unpredictable and mysterious ways in which we behave.
Praise for There's Something I Want You To Do
“These accomplished stories of precarious marriages and family strife are so laced with paradox and the unexpected and so psychologically intricate, one turns them over and over in one’s mind, seeking patterns and gleaning insights…. Rooted in Minneapolis, its industrial ruins so poetically rendered, these ravishing, funny, and compassionate stories redefine our perceptions of vice and virtue, delusion and reason, love and loss.” —Booklist, *starred review*
“Bare storylines can’t convey the quickly captivating simple narratives…or the revealing moments to which Baxter brings the reader…Similarly, Baxter, a published poet, at times pushes his fluid, controlled prose to headier altitudes, as in ‘high wispy cirrus clouds threatening the sky like promissory notes.’ Nearly as organic as a novel, this is more intriguing, more fun in disclosing its connective tissues through tales that stand well on their own.” —Kirkus Reviews, *starred review*
“Five stories named for virtues and five for vices make up this collection from a master craftsman….Baxter’s characters muddle through small but pivotal moments, not so much confrontations as crossroads between love and destruction, desire and death….The prose resonates with distinctive turns of phrase that capture human ambiguity and uncertainty: trouble waits patiently at home, irony is the new chastity, and a dying man lives in the house that pain designed for him.” —Publishers Weekly, *starred review*
“Baxter’s delightful stories will make readers hungry for more. Fortunately, there are more out there, and one hopes, more to come.” —Library Journal, *starred review*
“Charles Baxter is nothing short of a national literary treasure. To read these stories—hilarious, tragic, surprising, and indelibly human—is to receive revelation at the hands of a master. Who but this writer has such intimate knowledge of our most shameful depths, and who else can illuminate them with such stunning aptness of word and thought? These ten linked stories, fraught with loneliness, ultimately reveal the unbreakable ties between us all.” —Julie Orringer, author of How to Breathe Under Water
“With his latest collection, Charles Baxter has given us something altogether new in contemporary fiction: a series of moral tales that contain zero moralizing. At the center of each of these stories is a pivotal request—something I want you to do—and the ensuing narratives unfold with the nuanced complexity we’ve come to expect from Baxter, with a theological acumen few contemporary writers possess. Here is a cast of characters unparalleled since Sherwood Anderson’s Book of Grotesques, with a modern-day Minneapolis as tangible and strange as his Winesburg, Ohio. A stunning and unique work from one of the living masters of the story form.” —Jamie Quatro, author of I Want to Show You More
“Charles Baxter’s stories proceed with steady grace, nimble humor, quiet authority, and thrilling ingeniousness. In this his latest collection, all is on display—as are his honoring of the mysteries of love and his dramatic explorations of American manners, mores, family, solitude, and art. He is a great writer.” —Lorrie Moore, author of Bark
Charles Baxter is the author of the novels The Feast of Love (nominated for the National Book Award), The Soul Thief, Saul and Patsy, Shadow Play, and First Light, and the story collections Gryphon, Believers, A Relative Stranger, Through the Safety Net, andHarmony of the World. The stories “Bravery” and “Charity,” which appear in There’s Something I Want You to Do, were included inBest American Short Stories. Baxter lives in Minneapolis and teaches at the University of Minnesota and in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.