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Burning Down the House:
For fiction lovers, history and social commentary on the genre is a thought-provoking addition to reading. Novelist Charles Baxter's essays on contemporary fiction dissect the connections between life, values, and art with unerring and insightful precision. Baxter compares the dysfunction in contemporary fiction to the removal of the villain from politics. He decries the prostituting of epiphany as a commercial product that turns fiction into a pseudo-instruction manual, and he reveals the magic within Donald Barthelme's innovative prose, created with a generosity "almost unseen" in American letters. This is a powerful companion to Baxter's short story collections. [via]