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Saul and Patsy
by Baxter, Charles
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1. The novel opens with Saul and Patsy playing Scrabble in their rented house. What does this scene tell us about them? What is unusual or interesting about the ways in which Baxter introduces his characters in the opening chapter? What details make this chapter so effective as an entry point into the novel?

2. Saul decides to become a high school history teacher so that he can undertake the great project of undoing the dumbness thats been done [p. 8]. Does his experience as a teacher show him that he can have a positive effect on this widespread cultural dumbness?

3. Sauls mother warns him that life in Michigan is nothing . . . youre living in nothingness [pp. 2627]. Why is Five Oaks both frightening and interesting to Saul, and how does his Jewishness shape his perception of the place? One thing that intrigues Saul about the Midwest is its indifference. How does he experience this indifference?

4. Saul lives in the lagoon of self-consciousness and irony, while his ex-student Emory lives in the real [p. 40]. What, for Saul, is the difference between these two states? Does Patsy also live in the real? Is Saul self-conscious because he is overly educated and highly neurotic? Or does he perceive something about himself and the people around him that is actually quite accurate?

5. What happens to Saul in the episode on pages 5561? How does he arrive at the desire to have a child? What is the significance of the albino deer [pp. 5758, 67]? Is the deer symbolic? Why does Gordy shoot it with an arrow [p. 79]?

6. What makes Patsy so solid a character and so able to deal with Sauls anxieties? Why is she able to be happy in Five Oaks?

7. To what degree does Sauls inner drama dominate the novel? Does Saul learn to turn down the noise of his own consciousness?

8. While Saul is ultra-articulate and has a kinship with words, Gordy is illiterate and often mute. Why is Baxter interested in this struggle between two characters with such different communication skills?

9. As the novel ends, Saul and Patsy have another child, and Saul has a new career as The Bloviator in the local newspaper. Why does the story end with Sauls meeting with the little girl selling lemonade?

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