Charles Baxter (BSS #179)

Charles Baxter is most recently the author of The Soul Thief.


Condition of Mr. Segundo: Vengeful towards literary ransackers.

Author: Charles Baxter

Subjects Discussed: Nathaniel Branden, Ayn Rand, intellectualism and the academic community, reductionist dialogue, being a grad student in the 1970s, Baxter’s recurrent water motif, placing a novel in Buffalo, getting the setting right, conversations in Volkswagen Beetles, Lucas Samaras’s Mirrored Room, manufacturing images, The Feast of Love as film adaptation, whether or not Los Angeles has seen better times, pretentious words, overly precise details, Tolstoy, occupying a place without people, The Twilight Zone, antipodean characters, William Maxwell, “The Chaos Machine,” whether the written word is permanent, the revelatory ending of The Soul Thief (sans spoilers), fundamentalist readers, novels as models of lives, sponging off experience, playing by the rules and objective narratives, real-life burglars vs. soul thieves, Steve Erickson’s Zeroville, and plots as chessboards.


Baxter: I don’t mean to interrupt your question, but I think it is very much a process of the last thirty years. It’s been the time — the last three decades — when it’s been most noticeable. That cities have become museums of what it was they once made. And that’s not true for Los Angeles. But it is true for Minneapolis. If you go down to where I live, you go down to the Mississippi River, you’ll see grain mills that once were there. You will see the Mill City Museum. What you will see is a simulacrum — another pretentious word — of what was once there and isn’t there anymore.

Correspondent: By the way, you can throw as many pretentious words here as you like. It doesn’t matter.

Baxter: Okay, thanks.

Correspondent: No judgment here. (laughs)

Baxter: I appreciate it.

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