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The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter
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Feb 16, 2011

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"The Feast of Love"
By: Charles Baxter
Pantheon Books
New York, 2000

Love inspires, hinders, strengthens, and consumes the imagination in Charles Baxter’s riveting tale The Feast of Love. In 2001, the novel placed as a finalist for the National Book Award and shortly after was transformed into film. Blending together numerous short stories, Baxter develops a community falling under love’s tantalizing spell. Whether it breaks the heart or fuses its pieces back together, love unites six very different people so that they may share their own personal experiences. As the novel reveals, such deep affection disguises itself in a variety of forms. Scandalous affairs, along with love between married, dating, lesbian, and divorced couples, provide the reader with a succulent new snack in each chapter.

Paralleling A Midsummer Night's Dream, the novel captures love’s difficulties and humorous complexities in modern day Ann Arbor, Michigan. The dewy, dreamlike quality the novel begins with adds to the similarity between Baxter’s work and the Shakespearian play. As the story begins, the narrator, sharing an uncanny resemblance to the author, wakes disoriented. In a dreamlike state, he confuses an audio system’s music with the moon, commenting how the “Earth’s mad companion is belting out show tunes.” Crossing paths with an old acquaintance named Bradley; the two absorb themselves into conversation. Egging on Baxter, Bradley molds the entire books structure by recommending that he write about “real people,” even offering himself as a character for the book. Inevitably, this foreshadowing infused with dreamlike humor is only a mere taste of Baxter’s exquisitely mastered craft.

The chapters harmoniously complement one another as Baxter overlaps the character’s stories; yet, the characters vary in their own interpretation of love. Increasing his novel’s realistic quality, the author emphasizes how love yields different truths behind each gaze. Just as an individual describes a painting differently, Baxter’s characters recall events with obvious contrasts. A humorous depiction of this is when Bradley and his ex- wife, Kathryn, describe their own versions of the same day. Bradley describes it very fondly, as “the day you remember;” however, Kathryn describes her connection with Bradley as “empty and absent,” commenting how “he hummed while he was doing it, as if he were changing a light bulb.” Baxter’s writing style is more than enough to satisfy the reader. With his effortless talent, he nourishes diverse voices which wish to be heard. Although the execution is brilliant in that the stories masterfully flow between different perspectives, some characters lack adequate development to fully satisfy the reader. Perhaps, Baxter knowledgeably limits character development in The Feast of Love, to accentuate the novel’s major theme. With skillful diction, Baxter allows his novel’s main message rumble like static in the background—love takes many forms.

The Feast of Love brings many voices to the table and is a pleasant, enjoyable read for a wide ranging audience. Filled with a smorgasbord of romance, passion, hurt, and humor, something is left for every age to chew over. Remarkably clever, Baxter achieves what authors aspire to do. He gives others a chance to be heard.
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