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The Short List: The Disappeared, Charles Baxter

The Short List is a collection of reviews and critical responses to short fiction. All titles reviewed are suggested for a quick, quality read. Looking for quick but fulfilling reads? Start your search here.

The Disappeared, Charles Baxter


Charles Baxter’s story is about expectations and cultural obstacles. Through the eyes of a Swedish man transplanted into the heart of American culture, we experience the disconcerting truths of our nation and our culture in a way that we might otherwise overlook. Anders journeys to America with his own paradigm and a set of preconceived notions about American culture. With a strong sense of optimism and a child-like innocence, Anders begins to wander the city of Detroit, eyes wide open to the wonderful world of promise he believes he has traveled to. It seems as though he has missed the actual truth of opportunism, and even as he surrounds himself with it, Anders is oblivious to the dangerous world he has stepped into. The optimism that Anders left the airport with doesn’t survive long, as his innocent search for an American brand of love quickly leads him into a fractured state of emotional ecstasy and heartache. The question the reader must ask is whether the cause of Anders’ discordant state is due more to the actual abuses he finds himself a victim of, or the result of his shattered cultural expectations. If we conclude that it was his expectations that deal the most damage to his mental stability, then we must question the value of cultural stereotypes and cultural advertisement. Therein lays the strength of Baxter’s story, because like any other product, a culture’s colour may vary from the product shown on the packaging.

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