(born 1947 in
) is an American author
. Baxter is known for blending a quiet, sometimes absurdist wit with a profound sympathy for his far-from-perfect characters; he has also attracted attention for the consummate brilliance of his prose. He is likewise celebrated as an engaging and even deeply moving performer of his own work in public readings. His writing has been compared to that of Anton Chekhov
, William Trevor
, Alice Munro
, and John Cheever
Baxter graduated from Macalester College in Saint Paul and in 1974 received a Ph.D. in English from the University at Buffalo with a thesis on Djuna Barnes, Malcolm Lowry, and Nathanael West. He began his teaching career at Wayne State University in Detroit. He then moved to the University of Michigan, where for many years he directed the Creative Writing MFA program. He is renowned for his generosity towards and patient encouragement of his students, many of whom have gone on to forge successful writing careers; they include Gretchen Mazur, Helen Fremont, Michael Byers, Jardine Libaire, Porter Shreve, Davy Rothbart, John Fulton, Marc Nesbitt, Patrick O'Keeffe, Jess Row, Francesca Delbano, Peter Orner, Heidi Julavits, Karl Iagnemma and Elwood Reid. He currently teaches at the University of Minnesota and in the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers.
- First Light (1987). An eminent astrophysicist and her brother, a small-town Buick salesman, discover how they grew so far apart and the bonds of love that still keep them together.
- Shadow Play (1993). As his wife does gymnastics and magic tricks, his crazy mother invents her own vocabulary, and his aunt writes her own version of the Bible, Five Oaks Assistant City Manager Wyatt Palmer tries to live a normal life and nearly succeeds, but...
- Feast of Love (novel) (2000), a sumptuously reimagined Midsummer Night's Dream, comic, poignant, and sexy by turns. Nominated for the National Book Award. A motion-picture version of the book, starring Morgan Freeman, Fred Ward and Greg Kinnear and directed by Robert Benton, was released on September 27, 2007.
- Saul and Patsy (2003). A teacher's marriage and identity are threatened by a dangerously obsessed teenage boy at his school.
- The Soul Thief (2008)
Short Story and Essay Collections
- Harmony of the World (1984). Winner of the Associated Writing Programs Award.
- Through The Safety Net (1985)
- Gryphon (1985)
- A Relative Stranger (1990)
- Believers (1997)
- Burning Down The House: Essays on Fiction (1997)
- The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot (2007). Winner of the 2008 Minnesota Book Award for General Non-fiction.
- Imaginary Paintings (1989)
- The South Dakota Guidebook (1974)
- Chameleon (1970)
- A William Maxwell Portrait: Memories and Appreciations (2004)
- Bringing the Devil to His Knees: The Craft of Fiction and the Writing Life (2001)
- Best New American Voices 2001 (2001)
- The Business of Memory (1999)
Honors and Awards
- National Book Award (Finalist) for The Feast of Love, 2000
- The Award in Literature, American Academy of Arts and Letters, 1997
- Ohio University Spring Literary Festival (Honoree), 1995
- The Cohen Award for the best essay published in Ploughshares, 1994
- The Daniel A. Pollack-Harvard Review award to Shadow Play, 1994
- The Gettysburg Review nonfiction prose award for "Fiction and the Inner Life of Objects," 1994
- Michigan Author of the Year Award, 1993
- Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Foundation Fellowship, 1992-95
- Lawrence Foundation Award, 1991
- Arts Foundation of Michigan Award, 1991
- Guggenheim Fellowship, 1985-86
- Michigan Council for the Arts Grant, 1984
- National Endowment for the Arts Grant, 1983
- Lawrence Foundation Award, 1982