Saturday, January 30, 2016

Review: "There's Something I Want You to Do" by Charles Baxter

Sometimes a book’s high concepts carry the reader along the way over bumpy narrative and chuckhole size stretches of poor dialogue. Author Charles Baxter’s collection of linked short stories titles There’s Something I want You to Do does this perfectly. It has a groovy setup and a set of lofty ideas behind it, and even when parts came up that I either didn’t like or found myself bored by, I found what Baxter was doing with these stories to be quite noble and quite humane, not to mention very interesting and entertaining. But if it weren’t for the care taken with his themes, this collection wouldn’t get as high of a grade as I eventually gave it, with stories that stretch the boundaries of the realistic (which is a big turn-off for me in collections like this) and the boundaries of the reader’s attention, not too mention some really poor dialogue which I will get to soon. All these stories, which are named after both vices and virtues and with most taking place around Minneapolis, Minnesota, involve people reaching out to others, whether out of selfish need or desperate need, and their reactions to what they get back. In the first story, “Bravery”, a man loses his wife only to get her best friend who talked her into leaving. In “Charity”, a man searches for his boyfriend, finding clues in a seedy bar where a drug dealer quotes Shakespeare, and finally, in what I think is the best story, “Vanity” an attractive man has a odd yet revelatory conversation with a short old man who claims to be one of the Jews Oskar Schindler saved. When the stories hit their mark, they become magical, but when they don’t they are boring at worst, and laughable at best, with dialogue that is overly written and not very believable. But this is a short book; one that packs heavy ideas that had me thinking when it had me in its grasp.

Rating: 4/5

No comments:

Post a Comment