Author(s): Charles Baxter (University of Minnesota)
From one of the great masters of the contemporary short story, here is an astonishing collection that showcases Charles Baxter's unique 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.
Michelle Huneven, "New York Times Book Review""The book follows a group of Minneapolis citizens, including a pediatrician, a young drug addict, a translator and a car mechanic--all of whom, like the rest of us, crave love and meaning and moral goodness while confined by the shortcomings and idiosyncrasies of their own -personalities. These characters slip in and out of one another's stories, and while some never meet, they eventually -constitute, if not exactly a community, a shimmering web of interconnectedness." Laura Farmer, " The Cedar Rapids Gazette.".". Baxter's writing is sharper than ever as he explores heartbreaking storylines ranging from a happily married man taking in his now handicapped ex-wife to an overworked pediatrician who sees visions of the dead on his evening walks along the Mississippi." Kevin Grauke, "Philadelphia Inquirer"" Few writers, if any, are as capable of pursuing such an inevitable truth as this--and in so graceful, subdued, and artful a manner--as Charles Baxter." Den of Geek, ""The Must Read Fiction of 2015""" Baxter is a master at the top of his game, an artist who's perfected his technique. There's Something I Want You To Do is an explosive addition to his already stellar resume." "O Magazine""In his latest work of short fiction, a master of the form contemplates the abhorrent and admirable choices we make and what finally leads a person to choose the high road."" "Antoinette Kuritz, "Good Morning San Diego/Kusi TV""The nice thing is there's a thread that connects all the stories, and yet they each stand on their own with individual characters. And it's very well written....It's a great book to read with your book club, and it's a great book just to have on your nightstand just to read stories at night." Margaret Quamme, "The Columbus Dispatch""Baxter's writerly pleasure in words is used in the service of illuminating characters and places, and giving moral weight to the stories." Recommendations from Mrs. Dalloway, "San Francisco Chronicle""On magnificent display here is the great storyteller's unique ability to unveil the remarkable in the seemingly inconsequential moments of an eerie yet familiar life." Lorrie Moore, author of "Bark""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." Julie Orringer, author of "How to Breathe Under Water""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." Jamie Quatro, author of" I Want to Show You More""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." "Kirkus Reviews," *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." "Publishers Weekly, "*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." "Library Journal," *starred review*"Baxter's delightful stories will make readers hungry for more. Fortunately, there are more out there, and one hopes, more to come."
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, "and "Harmony of the World." The stories "Bravery" and "Charity," which appear in "There's Something I Want You to Do, "were included in "Best 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.