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Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction by Charles Baxter
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“When all the details fit in perfectly, something is probably wrong with the story.”
Charles Baxter, Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction
“There is such a thing as the poetry of a mistake, and when you say, "Mistakes were made," you deprive an action of its poetry, and you sound like a weasel.”
Charles Baxter, Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction
“The twentieth century has built up a powerful set of intellectual shortcuts and devices that help us defend ourselves against moments when clouds suddenly appear to think.”
Charles Baxter, Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction
“You can’t reconstruct a story—you can’t even know what the story is—if everyone is saying, “Mistakes were made.” Who made them? Everybody made them and no one did, and it’s history anyway, so let’s forget about it. Every story is a history, however, and when there is no comprehensible story, there is no history.”
Charles Baxter, Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction
“The loss of innocence, and the arrival of knowingness, can become an addiction.”
Charles Baxter, Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction
“When you say, “I fucked up,” the action retains its meaning, its sordid origin, its obscenity, and its poetry. Poetry is quite compatible with obscenity.”
Charles Baxter, Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction
“In a relentlessly commercial culture, the communication of our private meanings has been vaguely corrupted around the edges by the toxic idioms of merchandising.”
Charles Baxter, Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction
“The act of writing anything can be as much consent as creation.”
Charles Baxter, Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction
“Prose writers, by contrast, are unreliable friends: They are always studying you to see if there’s anything in your personality or appearance that they can steal for their next narrative.”
Charles Baxter, Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction
“As one gets older, the story of Hansel and Gretel becomes more interesting only when told from the point of view of the witch.”
Charles Baxter, Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction
“Say what you will about it, Hell is story friendly. If you want a compelling story, put your protagonist among the damned. The mechanisms of hell are nicely attuned to the mechanisms of narrative. Not so the pleasures of Paradise. Paradise is not a story. It's about what happens when the stories are over.”
Charles Baxter, Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction
“One of the signs of a dysfunctional narrative is that we cannot leave it behind, and we cannot put it to rest, because it does not, finally, give us the explanation we need to enclose it.”
Charles Baxter, Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction
“...Hell is the proof of God's failure or refusal to love.”
Charles Baxter, Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction
“Needing something is not the same thing as being interested in the thing itself.”
Charles Baxter, Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction
“After all, addiction is just the last stage of consumerism.”
Charles Baxter, Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction
“Their souls are usually heavy and managerial.”
Charles Baxter, Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction
“As Nietzsche says about Christians, you can tell from their faces that they don’t enjoy doing what they do. Fiction writers cluster in the unlit corners of the room, silently observing everybody, including the poets, who are usually having a fine time in the center spotlight, making a spectacle of themselves as they eat the popcorn and drink the beer and gossip about other poets.”
Charles Baxter, Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction
“Literature is not an instruction manual. For obvious reasons, this is rarely noted in fiction.”
Charles Baxter, Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction