There will certainly be a feast of talent at Borders tomorrow night, destined to satisfy even the most discriminating literary tastes.

Paul Wong
Courtesy of Keith E. Johnson

The appetizer, main course and dessert will all be the prose of Charles Baxter, the University”s Professor of English and Literature who teaches in the MFA program for Creative Writing.

The esteemed Professor Baxter was a 2000 National Book Award Finalist for his most recent work of fiction, “The Feast of Love.” Consumed with pleasure by critics, Ann Arborites and literature-lovers alike, “Feast” garnered further attention and acclaim for Baxter, the novel”s already well-known and highly competent “executive chef.”

Set in Ann Arbor, this novel has a varied cast of well-developed characters from teen coffee shop employees to an aging philosophy professor although none of the characters were based on real-life people. “They were all quite imaginary. They”re meant to look real, but they”re not,” states Baxter.

“Feast” could move even the most cynical members of your dinner party to raise their glasses and toast the power, and sometimes surprising presence, of love. Showing up in the most unexpected places, Baxter asserts that love is a force to always be reckoned with.

What factors inspired such an optimistic, feel-good tale? According to Baxter, “Two things. A performance of “A Midsummer Night”s Dream” at my son”s school when he was in the eighth grade, and a book by Vivian Gornick called “The End of the Novel of Love,” which argued that the novel of love is dead as a serious genre. I thought her argument was interesting but wrong.”

Baxter certainly pleads his case well. “Feast” is to a typical romance novel what crme brulee is to a Snickers bar. While the latter is cheap and can be easily produced, taking little skill and effort to create, the former is the conscientious work of a talented artist. So it is with “Feast” compared to the average novel of love.

The merits of “Feast” have been recognized by both the National Book Award Committee and the public, further proving Baxter”s argument that love stories can have literary value (as well as commercial appeal).

Work up a healthy appetite and enjoy some “gourmet” literature at Borders tomorrow night, where Baxter will read from “The Feast of Love,” followed by a discussion and signing.

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