The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter is indeed a feast – a reading feast.
It took me a few chapters to really get into the story – it’s about an insomniac author, Charlie Baxter, who takes a walk through his neighbourhood in the middle of the night and meets with a friend and fellow insomniac, Bradley. Bradley convinces Charlie to write a book about love and from there, the story unfolds.
“Bradley urges Charlie on saying, “Okay. Chapter One. Every relationship has at least one really good day…”’
At first, there are many seemingly disjointed threads to the story (which is why it took a bit of ‘getting into’). However, that quickly changes and you see how intricately lives become interwoven. None of the relationships seem farfetched and I think this can be attributed to Baxter’s sublime writing style – detailed but not forced; witty when in character; and spot-on for the ‘slow reveal’.
Sticking to the theme, there are lots of thoughts on love throughout the book (and from many different points of view). Some are hardened, some romantic, some sentimental – all are truthful.
“‘…all this love business is just nature’s way of getting more babies into the world. The rest of it is just all this romance nonsense.’ She struggled for the word. “The rest of it is just superstructure.”‘
“I was frightened out of my wits, saying these terrible condemning words. But the sentences came out of me as if I meant them. … Gently, my broken heart thumping, I hung up the phone, laying the receiver in its cradle.”
“When you break the heart of a philosopher, you must apply great force and cunning strategy, but when the deed is completed, the heart lies in great stony ruin at your feet. It will not be repaired.”
“There’s nothing to talk to strangers about anymore, if you know what I mean. Everything I want to say, I want to say to her. Life has turned into what I once imagined it was supposed to be, as complacent and awful as that sounds…. As the poet says, all happy couples are alike, it’s the unhappy ones who create stories. I’m no longer a story. Happiness has made me fade into real life.”
I loved this book for the same reasons that I loved When God was a Rabbit – it’s a bit like a fairytale. The improbable is woven with the ordinary.
Read this book with something rich and fully satisfying – I’m remembering a delicious beef roll with a side of potato salad and pickle that I lunched on at the Brooklyn Flea Market in New York last year.
5/5 – a perfect tale in every way.