University Prof. Charles Baxter bids Ann Arbor’s literary scene goodbye with a farewell reading of his latest book, “The Feast Of Love,” a National Book Award finalist, tonight at 7 p.m. in Borders on South State Street. Baxter sat down with Daily Arts to talk about his work, Ann Arbor and love.
The Michigan Daily: What will you miss most about Ann Arbor?
Charles Baxter: Somebody I knew used to say that the world comes to Ann Arbor, which is not exactly right, but just about anything you want in music, books, or movies, that kind of artistic/intellectual life, is here.
TMD: Does that make Ann Arbor a good place to write?
CB: I’ve always had good colleagues and friends here, so I’ve always had a community I could show my work to.
TMD: Your book, “The Feast of Love” is filled with local references; Stadium Boulevard, Pioneer High School, Ypsilanti. If someone was to make a movie of “The Feast of Love,” would you insist they film it in Ann Arbor?
CB: Once you sell your book, you don’t have say over things like that. The people at Miramax thought that they were going to make a movie out of it. The plan was to shoot it in Toronto because you can make films more cheaply there. I did want them to shoot some exteriors here.
TMD: Nothing came of the movie?
CB: The director couldn’t write a screenplay that she was satisfied with. There’s a director who made a film called “Love and Death in Long Island,” who seemed to be interested in it. I’ll believe it when it happens.
TMD: Are the characters in “The Feast of Love” based on real people?
CB: No, they’re all imaginary.
TMD: What makes them so real?
CB: Well, that’s the trick of writing a novel. You take features, one small thing of a person you know, one other feature of somebody else, and then you put these things on one character. You add one detail after another until the character starts to look real.
TMD: There’s a lot of sex in “The Feast of Love,” heterosexual on page 7, and lesbian by page 46, but it’s always fitting and never awkward to read.
CB: It’s not particularly explicit and it’s not there in order to get the reader aroused. It’s funny or it’s meant to tell you more about the characters.
TMD: (Defensive) Not that I read a lot of romance novels or have a lot to compare it to.
CB: Of course not. I wanted to write a novel that was about romance, which somebody could read without feeling ashamed.
TMD: Do you actually know people that have had sex on the Big House’s 50-yard line, as you describe in your book?
CB: I saw some people having sex in the Big House when my son was 10. It was a Sunday afternoon, around one o-clock, and my son and I were biking around … we biked into the stadium, and there was a couple there, doing it on the 50-yard line. And my son said, “What are they doing,” and I said, “They’re mating.”