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Through the Safety Net: stories Paperback – September 29, 1998
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The title story, for example, takes the reader through a day in the life of Dinah Nadler, a dentist, wife, and mother whose regular consultations with a psychic take a dark turn. His warning that there's a "black spot ... blinking, at the horizon" of her life freights even the most commonplace actions with dread. Baxter only hints at what might be happening in Dinah's life, but he does it so well that the ambiguity of his mild-seeming conclusion, "Then she went back to the window, cupped her hands on both sides of her face, and looked outside to see what was happening," is truly chilling. Each of the 11 stories in this collection demonstrates Baxter's quirky, chiaroscuro view of the universe, and also stands as testimony to the fact that he is one of the best fiction writers at work today. --Alix Wilber
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A drunken graduate student hurtles cheerfully through a snowstorm to rescue a fiancee who no longer wants him. A hospital maintenance worker makes a perverse bid for his place in the sunlight of celebrity. A man and a woman who have lost their only child cling fiercely to the one thing they have left of her--their grief. Lit by the quiet lightning of Baxter's prose, Through the Safety Net is filled with rare artistry and feeling.
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This collection could easily fall into common trap of hackneyed, pointless introspection, but it doesn't. Each story is far too clever, well-crafted, and even funny. In their own way each is wrapped in a veneer of hope, possibility, or at least, dignity. One of the cleverest of the bunch is "Gryphon", in which a young boy learns about the world from an eccentric teacher he's not likely to forget soon. "A Late Sunday Afternoon by the Huron" is an intimate pastiche, a beautiful literary take on a famous French painting. "Stained Glass" spins a familiar tale of love's follies with a delightful twist.
Baxter brings the beauty of language and the saving grace of personal affection to his characters. In a short time they become old acquaintances. They're people one can continue to learn from the more one thinks.