by Keith Taylor
A few years ago Charles Baxter wrote a love story set in Ann Arbor, The Feast of Love, which has sold hundreds of thousands of copies around the world. Last year I met a couple of Scandinavian writers in Greece who had a vague idea that Detroit made cars and had never heard of the U-M, but they knew Ann Arbor as the town in Baxter's novel. Until I persuaded them of our reality, they thought the town with the funny name might exist only in Baxter's fiction.
Baxter's new novel, Saul and Patsy, is a ghost story. There are the gentle humor and genuine characters we have come to expect in Baxter's novels, but this time there are also the scary, spooky elements necessary for a good ghost story, and an intentionally unresolved anxiety that keeps a reader troubled to the end.
Baxter first wrote about Saul and Patsy Bernstein twenty years ago in a short story, and they have since popped up once or twice in other places. He is obviously attracted to his idealistic young couple who move to Five Oaks, Michigan, a genuinely fictional town in the Saginaw River valley that Baxter has been populating in various stories for years. Saul is a high school teacher, and Patsy works part time as a loan officer in a local bank. In this novel they are beginning a family and buying a house.
Saul is from Baltimore, and he's Jewish. He feels he doesn't belong in the rural Midwest and worries about real and imagined anti-Semitism, but he also relishes his sense of difference and reflects on it constantly:
The blankness of the midwestern landscape excited him. There was a sensual loneliness here that belonged to him now, that was truly his. He thought that fate had perhaps turned him into one of those characters in Russian literature abandoned to haphazard fortune and solitude on the steppes.
The new character in this
Arts and Entertainment reviews and news.>> Blogs