Believers: A Novella and Stories

by Charles Baxter

Hardcover, 1997




New York : Pantheon Books, 1997.


A collection of eight stories. In The Cures for Love, a young woman distraught over a love affair finds solace in reading Ovid, while the title novella is on the loss of faith of a boy who discovers he was conceived and brought into the world by a priest.

User reviews

LibraryThing member kirstiecat
The stories in this collection are much more interesting to me than the novella, though there is a twist to the novella I had no idea about and I have to give props to Baxter for his ability to be unpredictable in this day and age. The short stories themselves take place in the American midwest but
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the novella ventures into Nazi Germany so, as you can imagine, it gets pretty ugly.

The stories are what left a resonance on me...the charmer who really deep down loves to beat his girlfriends and the diner magi granting wishes to those who give him change, the man who may be a ruthless killer or may just not distinguish his own actions from the protagonists in stories/plots in movies, the bourgeois dinner party in which the guests imagine their past lives, the man who finds a paper and a nondescript drawing with the words "The Next Building I Plan to Bomb", the new anxious father who teaches students with Learning Disabilities and becomes obsessed with bees....the characters are all very vivid and there is some of Raymond Carver in this but, to be frank, these stories have more of an edge or a point where as his I find myself going "So what" when I reach the end.

In any case, I decided to read all of these stories twice and they were even better the second time. Some of the things that I overlooked earlier really grabbed me and made me pay attention to Baxter's insights about people and America. Baxter has the ability to write so that you actually do believe what he's written, at least in these short stories, so that the readers themselves, you and I, become Believers.

Memorable Quotes:

pg. 25 "Her speech was full of italics."

pg. 54-55 "Right there, right across from Walt Whitman's house, the man who wrote, well, Leaves of Grass, there's a new county prison. Yellow brick with slit windows. There's American ingenuity for you. Whitman on one side of the street, a prison on the other. It was as ugly as men can make it. Barbed wire and concertina wire were around it, like decorations. It was so ugly they didn't need barbed wire, but they had it anyway.

pg. 79 "The walls of the alley were coated with sinister drippings. She bathed in the movies more satisfactorily when they didn't may any sense."

pg. 81 "The guy'd already been drinking too much, and his voice got like a radio that was losing a station."

pg. 86 "The movies were getting into everything now. They spread over everybody like the flu."

pg. 92 "Men often puzzled her. A World War wasn't big enough for them. No, they had to have a universe war and give it a fancy name that most adults couldn't even spell. This end-of-the-world story they could recount until they were blue in the face, going onto strangers' front porches , all dressed up out of respect for the bloodshed to come.
A strange appetite, like something in the Weekly World News, and she had once shared it. You certainly had to believe a lot of things to get through a lifetime."

pg. 103 Clouds, mud , wind, Joy and despair live side by side in Saul with very few emotions in between. Even his depressions are this with lyric intensity. In the spiritual mildew of the Midwest all winter he lives stranded in an ink drawing. He himself is the suggested figure in the lower righthand corner."

pg. 119 "Well maybe we're missionaries, Patsy thinks, as she stumbles and Saul holds her up. We're the missionaries they left behind when they took all the religion away."

pg. 130 "Five days before Merilyn left, fourteen years ago, Conor found a grocery list in green ink under the phone in the kitchen, "Grapefruit, yogurt," the list began, the followed with, "cereal, diapers, baby wipes, wheat germ, sadness." And then, the next line:n"Sadness, sadness, sadness"

pg. 147 "Funny how books put themselves into your hands when they wanted you to read them."

pg. 151 (About O'Hare) "This airport is really manmande, she thought, they don't get more manmade than this."

pg. 231 (About Nazi Germany) "Prayer was useless in Germany. He noticed this the minute he had stepped off the boat. Prayers fell as dead as stones here as soon as they were uttered, were inwardly unanswered, and the fact was so obvious to him that he had been spiritually perplexed since he had arrived. In this place, speaking to God was like trying to carry on a conversation with a fully dressed corpse."

232 (About Nazi Germany) "An insomniac consciousness seemed to animate the place."
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LibraryThing member b.masonjudy
The star rating system on this site does somewhat of a disservice to the work. My rating of Charles Baxter's collection is based on my preference more than my estimation of his writing. All the short stories and the novella, "Believers," are written with a deft command of narrative. However I am
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not entirely taken with Baxter's style. It's like a modernized classic short story, the close third person keeps the psychic distance a little too far and though he has great characters in these stories they always feel a bit too removed in the short stories. "The Cures for Love" was an experimental departure compared to the rest of the work because he dips into the first-person, if only for a paragraph, and uses a poetic translation in the text in a dream-sequence that gives the story heft. After reading his essays on writing it's clear Baxter practices what he espouses in his essays. These stories are fraught with repetition of images and they never resolve, just open out with an action or description that makes them linger on the tip of your consciousness.
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