The Pleasures of Nicholson Baker

A little piece I wrote for NPR.org just went live, on Nicholson Baker’s wonderful short novel The Mezzanine.

You might remember my praise here for Baker’s hilarious and pornographic House of Holes.

But those aren’t the only Baker books I’m hot on. Human Smoke, a collection of bits and pieces from newspapers and journals published in the lead-up to WWII, blew me away.* The Fermata, which riffs on the adolescent fantasy of being able to stop time and is 33% plainly pornographic, is one of the few books I wish I’d written myself. U and I, Baker’s examination of his relationship with John Updike’s work, might have a longer shelf life than John Updike’s actual work. The list goes on.

I don’t know what it is about Baker that makes me feel he’s writing just for me, but I do know that I’m not the only one who experiences this feeling. He’s one of those artists whose work creates new spaces (or clears the cobwebs from old ones) so that others might work there, too.

* Yeah, I know.

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