There's a particular problem that writers encounter when they begin stories or novels that concern a family, a relationship, or an organization with a long history. As readers, we always enter the movie late, after it's started. How do we get the reader the necessary information without digging ourselves into expository potholes? How do we get the reader up-to-speed without being dull and informative? I'm going to talk about visitors in fiction as narrative enablers who serve as ambassadors for the reader—visitors who need to be informed about what's going on, just as the reader does. I'll have examples from (possibly) Kafka's "In the Penal Colony," Puzo's The Godfather, Penelope Fitzgerald's The Blue Flower, Bronte's Wuthering Heights, Stoker's Dracula, and Jordan Peele's movie Get Out. I'll also be talking about readers-as-strangers, the overcoming of strangeness by empathy, and our contemporary social issues of emigration and refugees and migrants.
Charles Baxter is the author of the novels The Feast of Love (nominated for the National Book Award), First Light, Saul and Patsy, Shadow Play, The Soul Thief, and The Sun Collective, and the story collections Believers, Gryphon, Harmony of the World, A Relative Stranger, There’s Something I Want You to Do, and Through the Safety Net. His latest craft book, Wonderlands: Essays on the Life of Literature was published in October. His stories have appeared in several anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, and The O. Henry Prize Story Anthology. He has won the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story. He lives in Minneapolis.