Charles Baxter on the response to his essays on writing in a changing world ‹ Literary Hub

Author and professor Charles Baxter joins Fiction/Non/Fiction hosts VV Ganeshananthan and Whitney Terrell to discuss his new essay collection. Amazing countries: Essays on the Life of Literature, and how his thoughts on business are relevant to the times we live in. He explained the concepts he used, such as “wonderlands,” “Captain Happen,” “pleading moments,” and “poignant stories,” and provided images from literature and the world around us shows how these things can inform the writing of history. For example, he explained, Donald Trump rejected his loss in the 2020 presidential election as a bitter story because it would change his identity of who he is.

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Watch video clips from our interview on LitHub’s Virtual Book Channel, Fiction/Non/Fiction’s YouTube Channel, and our website. This podcast is hosted by Anne Kniggendorf.

From the section:

VV Ganeshananthan: It seems to me that your idea of ​​”wonderland” is related to the wonderland.

Charles Baxter: It’s working. Of course, it comes out Alice in Wonderland, which I thought wasn’t a… it was a funny story, but to me, it was a dream like kind of magical thing. I think in my case, it may have come from recording novels, Murakami’s novels. And his book is long 1Q84 which I watched a few years ago. He calls these other lands that he created, he calls them “wonderful lands.” And there is nothing surprising about them.

VVG: You write a lot about Murakami in the book. In another article, “Toxic Narratives, and the Bad Workshop,” you refer to Trump as someone who rejects a narrative because it is toxic to him. We all want to escape this world and its way of being untruthful about the truth, or the things we live in, but how the news and politics can influence your Any thoughts on how you should develop these words?

CB: Well, I’m tempted to say that none of us are immune. I think you could go and live in a cave and be apart of what we face every morning. I have seen people stop reading the morning paper, and ignore the news, because they find it so depressing. But you know, if you’re thinking about what’s going on, you start by osmosis to get involved. And it depends on the type of fiction you write. It’s still with me. And I think I should say that we should all write about how to live in the time we live. What else can we do? We can write novels. But I can’t do that. I don’t want to do that.

Whitney Terrell: There is a sense that work is divorced from politics or reality. Our show is about politics and literature and art, but I found it very interesting to Wonderful Land Article you mentioned, where you talk about there is no division between organization and information. It is also the toxic narrative essay. They seem to be talking about work ideas and responding to work-related ideas that arise due to the current political situation. When you say people can’t accept stories they don’t like, and people can’t accept the truth, that’s what happened with the election, the debate on the vote. And it seems to me that those articles answer exactly that.

CB: That’s right. I think I should quickly explain what I think is a bittersweet story. A bitter story is a story that you know, or that you have lived or that is true to you, but you can’t say, you can’t accept. For example, Donald Trump’s only political opinion in the last election was a bittersweet story for him, one that he could not share without changing his opinion of who he was. When something happens to you, or even more, if you have done something that hurts your sense of who you are, you can’t tell. You can’t say. Now, in response to the other comment you made, I was just reading Elif Batuman’s It’s either/or, during that story, he said, he hates articles, because they have nothing to do with the real problems of life. Personally, that’s wrong. Each of the articles on Wonderful Land A problem arises that I try to solve in writing and in life.

VVG: That’s one of the best things about the book, and I think all of your articles, they don’t just take the stories on the page, but how that interacts with the characters. what you see in the world and what you control. don’t rule the world.

WT: What movie did the two men in the lighthouse recently come out with? Did you know?

CB: Yes. Isn’t that what it’s called The Lighthouse?

WT: It might be called The Lighthouse. It’s one of those movies where the setting… When you start talking about the Ancient Ancient In that same article, I started thinking about that movie and how the setting and content in that movie were related, to kill an albatross or to kill a a bird is important in that film in the way of killing an albatross. important in the Ancient Ancient All that stuff came back, and I thought it was really amazing and relatable.

CB: One of the features of the horror genre, which I always think about, is that the atmosphere is more important than the real things. And the atmosphere, which has everything to do with the arrangement, seems to be buried in something that you cannot immediately see. And so, what you see is not what you get in horror, and I thought about this in relation to modern films, like Go outbut classic English stories like Wuthering Heightsthat, to me, is a horror story as it were, Dracula is it. And basically, if you look at the opening of those stories and those movies, they all do the same thing. You need to get an alien to a place and the alien will slowly fall through the air there.

VVG: Yes, same The Wicker Man.

CB: Yes, completely.

VVG: My friend Bennett Sims wrote the thing Salon or otherwise Slate called a Proustian zombie novel, set in Baton Rouge, he and I were talking about how that period of time was expanded and deals with horror. And then, while you’re talking, I’m thinking about the pandemic, a lot of people have described the same thing, or the political trend since 2016, since we started this podcast. . Lacy Johnson, who has been on the show twice, says it’s a soup of time.

CB: I think that during the pandemic, everyone began to realize that something happened when they saw time, partly because social events did not occur as they did during before, and you thought it was attached to your house, and it took a long time. in ways you are not used to. And when people go out in public, they don’t look at each other like they used to. Because there are eyes or not, and they are looking at you, because you forgot to put your face. Many strange things happened during the pandemic and still do. That’s how I thought about the creation of the atmosphere or the setting of the story, and in other places.


Selected Readings:

Charles Baxter

Wonderful Land Gryphon Burn the House down There is something I want you to do The type of text Behind the glass Murakami | The New York Book Review


Is the world really falling, or does it just feel like it? by Max Fisher – The New York Times S4 Episode 6: Hope on the Horizon: Charles Baxter and Mike Alberti on Despair and Renewal in Fiction S1 Episode 4: We’re all Russian, now Wonderful World na Aimee Nezhukumatathil Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll Haruki Murakami 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami It’s either/or by Elif Batuman The Lighthouse The Rime of the Old Ship by Samuel Taylor Coleridge Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë Dracula by Bram Stoker The Wicker Man Bennett Sims Lacy Johnson Go out Mike Alberti Jamaica Kincaid What they took by Tim O’Brien Stacey D’Erasmo Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy Dog Day evening


Written by Compiled and edited by Anne Kniggendorf.

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