Pantheon, Jan 11 2011, $27.95
This engaging twenty story collection from one of the best authors of the short format includes seven new tales and sixteen entries from his previous anthologies. The tales all look closely at ordinary people living mundane lives yet each character possesses a jocular quirkiness that sets him or her just outside the norm. The entire compilation contains all solid tales with a few of the reruns being super and new tales for the most part excellent. “Gryphon” (see Through the Safety Net) stars a fourth grader musing about a substitute teacher providing special reading and times table lessons. The art dealer knows 9/11 changed him forever in enigmatic “Royal Blue” (see The American Scholar). The stranger enters her house and announces to the frightened woman they are soulmates, but she will soon learn what soulmate means to him in “Ghosts” (see Ploughshares). “Fenstad’s Mother” lectures him when he visits her adamantly insisting that he just tries to be good, but his daughter Sharon is the real thing. The "Poor Devil" is actually a couple beyond the edge of divorce. As always Charles Baxter provides a strong insightful look at everyman; often through a surreal Dali like eye.