18B *The Michigan Daily Literardagazine - Thursday, March 1$997
110 The Michigan Oy Literary Magazi
A 'weekly list of who's
where, what's happening and
why you need to be there..
'U' Pro f. Charles Baxter
represents Ann Arbor's
top literary talent
By Mary Trombley ~For the Daily
Ann Arbor Film Festival The 35th Annual
Festival continues to showcase the best and
brightest in experimental and independent
filmmaking. Mich. 3 p.m. (free judge's screen-
ing), 7, 9 and 11 p.m. Free.
Nuno Bettencourt Formerly of Extreme, now
out on his own. Harpo's. (810) 824-1700.
Counting Crows With the weather in
Michigan, it will indeed feel like a long
December, which is all the more reason to
check out this sold-out show if you have tick-
ets. State Theatre. 961-5450.
Dorothy East Lansing rock originals. Rick's.
9:30 p.m. Free.
Knee Deep Shag Rock originals from this
Kalamazoo band, touring in support of its
"Intuition" CD. Blind Pig. 9:30 p.m.
Space Touring for its new CD, "Spiders." With
Star 69. The Shelter. 7:30 p.m. $7.
WCBN Bash Come support your University
radio station. With Raisin Pickers, Only A
Mother and K.C. Groves and the Darlin's. The
Ark. 8 p.m. $5 students.
Comedy Company Special Edition The group
presents its annual big finale performance fea-
turing sketch comedy and improvisation
games. Mendelssohn Theater. 8:30 p.m. $5.
Fool for Love Sam Shepard's journey into the
heart of the American West, where two lovers
rekindle their past attempts at love. Arena
Theater (basement of Frieze Building). 7 p.m.
Blues' Storytellers WEMU producer Michael
Jewett discusses songwriting in oral/folk tra-
dition. EMU Depot Town Center, 32 E. Cross
St. 6:30 p.m. $12. 487-0407.
Ellen Driscoll Ongoing exhibit at the
University Museum of Art through March 16
- "Ahab's Wife: Working Drawings and
Fiction Reading Matt Ruff reads from his lat-
est novel, "Sewer, Gas and Electric." Borders.
7:30 p.m. Free.
Richard Goode A program of Bach, Beethoven
and Brahms in the Ann Arbor debut of this
acclaimed, Grammy winning pianist. Hill
Auditorium. 8 p.m. $16-$42. 764-2538.
The all-star cast returns from the movie "A Fish Called Wanda" in "Fierce Creatures," showing on campus this week.
Poetry Reading Laurence Lieberman reads
from his work as part of the University
Visiting Writers Series. Rackham
Amphitheatre. 5 p.m. Free.
Ann Arbor Film Festival See Thursday. Mich.
3 p.m. (free judge's screening), 7 and 9
Blur Come see Oasis' bitter - and better?
- rivals. St. Andrew's Hall. 6 p.m. 961-
Counting Crows See Thursday. (This show is
Crossroads Ceili Come on over for an evening
of Irish song and dance. The Ark. 8 p.m. $11.
Local H Keep it copasetic with these guys
and their guests, Failure and Beer Nuts.
Clutch Cargos's in Pontiac. (810) 333-
The Odds Touring in support of its CD "Nest,"
this Canadian band features many cool guys.
The 7th House in Pontiac. 8 p.m. (810) 335-
Jerry Sprague and the Remainders College-'
rock cover band from East Lansing. Rick's.
9:30 p.m. Free.
Transmission One stop and you can see a lot of
bands of 313 Records'. With Small Change and
M.K.R. Blind Pig. 9:30 p.m. Free.
Wailing Souls Reggae returns to Detroit with
this show at the Majestic. (810) 645-6666.
A Few Good Men The Rude Mechanicals (for-
merly Soph Show) presents Aaron Sorkin's
courtroom drama concerning two Marines at
the Guantanamo Bay base in Cuba. It was
turned into the acclaimed film starring Tom
Cruise and Demi Moore. U-Club in the Union.
8 p.m. $6 in advance through the Michigan
Union Ticket Office. 763-TKTS.
Empatheatre Real-life stories from the audi-
ence are quickly molded into an improvisation-
al scene by a group of trained performers.
Kerrytown Concert House, 415 N. 4th Ave. $6
Comedy Company Special Edition See
Thursday. 8:30 p.m.
Fool for Love See Thursday. 8 and 11 p.m.
Book Signing University professor Richard W.
Bailey discusses his book, "Nineteenth-
Century English." Shaman Drum. 4 p.m. Free.
Fiction Reading Ray Young Bear gives a
storytelling performance and signs copies of
his new book "Remnants of the First Earth."
Rackham Amphitheatre. 8 p.m. Free.
n a story in University Prof. Charles Baxter's
new collection of short fiction, "Believers," a
character relating a tale at a dinner party says,
"I keep forgetting about the necessities of violence
in the USA. Well, if you were expecting violence,
you'll be disappointed. Something else happened."
This statement is almost emblematic of Baxter's
own work. His stories, in their graceful depiction
of Midwestern life, never hinge on overt brutality.
Something else is always happening in Baxter's
work - something dark, something slow, some-
thing heady, but always something subtle and well-
crafted. Even when he's describing an assisted sui-
cide or a bar brawl, Baxter's writing is endowed
with careful clarity and wit.
"I've come to feel that the real challenge to me as
a writer is to take ordinary experiences and to make
them interesting again," Baxter said in an interview
with The Michigan Daily. "Apparently it's not my
mission in life to take the
huge subjects - war and
peace - and deal with them. I make
What I do is to take some of
these more day-to-day events day event
and make them compelling.
The author's statement is a compellin
bit humble, considering that
the "huge subjects" in most -
people's lives are the ones 'U' Pi
Baxter writes about.
Marriage (the lasting kind),
conventional confusion and the after-effects of death
and disease are mainstays of his stories. As he writes
about confused people making choices, Baxter
avoids the flamboyant and focuses on slower, scarier
realities. In his fiction, a drunken driver will avoid
crashing his car, only to have to face the wreckage of
his life in the morning.
This year has been particularly productive for the
author: Besides "Believers," which is in stores now,
a book of his essays, titled "BurningDown The
House" will be available in April. Vintage Books is
also issuing his first collection, "Harmony Of The
World," this spring. In addition, Baxter is the current
director of the English department's MFA program.
Though Baxter focuses on the short story genre,
he has written two fine novels - "First Light" and,
most recently, 1993's "Shadow Play," as well as a
collection of poetry. His work is regularly pub-
lished in academic journals and such mainstream
magazines as Harper's and Atlantic
Monthly."Baxter is frequently anthologized in
"Best American Short Stories" and has received
numerous accolades, including an O. Henry Price
award and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
Baxter's collections of short fiction have gar-
nered him the most attention. Despite his forays
into other forms, short stories continue to fascinate
him. "I really like the poetry and the compression
and the scope of the short story, how much you can
tell in a limited space," Baxter commented.
"Within this small size, this constriction ... I think
you can do amazing things."
Baxter's characters are particularly memorable
- a young child experiencing the death of his
grandmother, a bored banker determined to
explode his life, an elderly woman deceiving her
husband on his deathbed.
Baxter explains that his style of character influ-
ences his use of the short story: "I like characters
that are impulsive and impulsive characters are
rof. and author
more suited to short stories
than novels. I like that in
short stories you don't have
to give a character's whole
history. You just put a char-
acter in front of the reader
and have that character
start to do something."
The novel form influ-
ences Baxter's work in a
different manner. "I really
think novels are more
about time and memory and people making plans.
Novels are often up to the business of creating his-
"First Light," for example, traces the relationship
of a brother and sister in reverse chronological order,
starting from a present-day holiday party and ending
at their first meeting in infancy. The book is particu-
larly apt at showing the connections between the
characters' past and present circumstances; each
episode reveals a little more of the complicated links
between past events and present pain.
Baxter is a native of Minneapolis and has taught
in the state of Michigan since 1974. His writing is
nearly always set in the Midwest, most particular-
ly the fictional rural town of Five Oaks.
"I write about the Midwest because I know it
and because I'm a Midwesterner and you write
about what you know. Even Stephen King writes
about Maine because that's what he knows," he
said. Baxter's stories are eerie portraits of the
region - they accentuate the surreal in the most
commonplace of Midwestern lives.
Five Oaks is Baxter's own mental sandlot: "My
imagination can really go wild in it. It really does-
n't exist anywhere. I keep fudging the geography
... sometimes that town is near Kalamazoo and
sometimes it's up near Bay City or Saginaw. It
goes wherever I want it to be. In my head it's this
little playground I've created in which I put my
characters and I jest watch them do whatever I
want them to do or whatever they want to do.
"It's true that my fiction is called realist but I get
to change the rules because I'm writing it. If
changing the rules suits me and as long as the story
seems to be plausible, I can get away with that."
Chances are a character in one Five Oaks story
will pop up again in another story. The most
famous of these recycled characters are Saul and
Patsy, a married couple that first appears in
Baxter's second collection of stories, "Through
go on v
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Literary Magazine Editors: Dean Bakopoulos, Greg Pa
Literary Magazine Photo Editor: Margaret Myers.
Literary Magazine Judges: Creative writing subconcentrators: Dean Bakopoulos, Chris
and Gordon Smith. Daily Books Editor: Elizabeth Lucas.
Contributing Writers: Paul Barron, Jeremy Chamberlin, Coreen Duffy, Greg Epstein,
Kidd, Jessica Belle Smith, Holly Spaulding, Fritz Swanson, Sara Talpos, Mary Trc
Wilson and Beth Ziobro.
Photographers: John Kraft, Margaret Myers, Jeannie Servaas, Sara Stillman and Jona
Cover photo by Margaret Myers. Cover design by Greg Parker.
Arts Editors: Brian A. Gnatt and Jennifer Petinski.
Special Sections Coordinator: Meagan Moore.
Editor in Chief: Josh White.