Book Reviews

Reviews of Recent Fiction and Nonfiction

Book Reviews

The Feast of Love: A Novel

by Charles Baxter

Pantheon, 320 pp., $24

Ooooooh, what a little moonlight can do. Charles Baxter's wonderful new novel, A Feast of Love, is drenched in it. The novel gives alternating chapters to four main characters, allowing each to describe their love stories from beginning to end. Thus, without the security of conventional plot, a reader is pulled inside a compelling universe, one in which anything can happen. Each story is complete, and each sheds light on the others. The fascination is akin to reading on-line diaries of strangers; their lives may be no more exciting than your own, but the voyeurism is eerily compelling nonetheless.

The characters in The Feast of Love are so vibrant, so alive, that they are clamoring to speak for themselves:

Bradley, owner of the coffee shop Jitters, on his two failed marriages: "Every relationship has at least one really good day."

Bradley's next-door neighbor, a retired philosopher, who loves to pontificate while nobody listens: "Both God and love are best described and addressed by means of poetry. Poetry, however, is also stone dead at the present time, like its first cousin, God. Love will very quickly follow, no? Hmmm? Don't you agree?"

Diana, a hard-edged lawyer who frequents the coffee shop: "It seems a shame to say so, but one orgasm is not as good as another."

And my favorite character, Chloe, a teen who works at Jitters whose prize possession is her RAGING HORMONES T-shirt: "When he looked at me, he was sending me a signal that extended into the future and made my teeth rattle. He said he was pierced all over the place. And he told me where he was pierced, including his tongue stud, and also the secret tattoo he had, of the skull, which said 'Die.' I was deeply impressed."

Who could resist hearing the rest of their stories?

Baxter's midnight romp is a wild ride, much like an Errol Morris documentary. I was sorry when it was over, and dazed. In fact, I can't stop thinking about Chloe, whose words of wisdom are still ringing in my ears: "When people are staring off into their neighborhood infinity, before they see me, what are they thinking about? That's what I'm trying to grasp. I think they're stupified, thinking about love, mostly, how they once had it, how they got it, how they lost it, and all the people they loved or didn't love, how they ended up royally hating somebody, like, the weirdness and wetness of it. Bradley says they're thinking about money, but I know they're not. Love comes first."

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More by Amanda Eyre Ward
A Journey Through Hell
A Journey Through Hell
Óscar Martínez talks about riding the rails through Mexico to America

Oct. 11, 2013

Uncorking Creativity
Uncorking Creativity
Amanda Eyre Ward doesn't think you should beat yourself up too much

Nov. 27, 2012

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

The Feast of Love: A Novel, Charles Baxter

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle