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Works by
Nicholson Baker
(Writer)
[January 7, 1957 - ]

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Profile created October 2, 2009
Collection
  • Vintage Baker (2004)
    Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, Nicholson Baker has established himself as one of our most brilliant observers of everyday experience. With his keen perception, flawless prose, and endless wit, he has composed both fiction and nonfiction that has become an essential part of our literature.

    Vintage Baker contains generous selections from the novels Vox, The Fermata, The Mezzanine, and A Box of Matches; essays from The Size of Thoughts; and portions of the NBCC award winner Doublefold.
Fiction
  • The Anthologist (September 8, 2009)
    The Anthologist is narrated by Paul Chowder -- a once-in-a-while-published kind of poet who is writing the introduction to a new anthology of poetry. He's having a hard time getting started because his career is floundering, his girlfriend Roz has recently left him, and he is thinking about the great poets throughout history who have suffered far worse and deserve to feel sorry for themselves. He has also promised to reveal many wonderful secrets and tips and tricks about poetry, and it looks like the introduction will be a little longer than he'd thought.

    What unfolds is a wholly entertaining and beguiling love story about poetry: from Tennyson, Swinburne, and Yeats to the moderns (Roethke, Bogan, Merwin) to the staff of The New Yorker, what Paul reveals is astonishing and makes one realize how incredibly important poetry is to our lives. At the same time, Paul barely manages to realize all of this himself, and the result is a tenderly romantic, hilarious, and inspired novel.

  • Checkpoint: A Novel (2004)
    Checkpoint is a novella that explores the peculiar angst many Americans are feeling right now about their country and their president. The book is set up as a conversation between two old high school buddies. One of them, in despair about the direction the country is going, is convinced he must kill the president; the other tries to talk him out of it.

    Baker wrote Checkpoint in response to the powerless seething fury many Americans felt when President Bush decided to take the nation to war. "How do you react to something that you think is so hideously wrong?" asks Baker. "How do you keep it from driving you nuts? What do you do with your life while this wrong is being carried out? What are the thoughts—the secret thoughts, the unpublishable thoughts, so to speak—that go through your head?"

    Some people have rational responses. Others do not. Baker’s book does not suggest violence is ever an appropriate response. But in order to understand the reasons why a violent act is always a mistake, one must first look at the contemplation of such an act.

    The dialogue in Checkpoint is angry, funny, pointed and absurd. All of it has relevance to our world. And it is through the conversation in this novel that Baker hopes to raise important questions about how we react to violence—both individually and as a nation.

  • A Box of Matches: A Novel (2003)
    Emmett has a wife and two children, a cat, and a duck, and he wants to know what life is about. Every day he gets up before dawn, makes a cup of coffee in the dark, lights a fire with one wooden match, and thinks.

    What Emmett thinks about is the subject of this wise and closely observed novel, which covers vast distances while moving no farther than Emmett’s hearth and home. Nicholson Baker’s extraordinary ability to describe and celebrate life in all its rich ordinariness has never been so beautifully achieved.

  • The Everlasting Story of Nory (1998)
    Our supreme fabulist of the ordinary now turns his attention on a 9-year-old American girl and produces a novel as enchantingly idiosyncratic as any he has written. Nory Winslow wants to be a dentist or a designer of pop-up books. She likes telling stories and inventing dolls. She has nightmares about teeth, which may explain her career choice. She is going to school in England, where she is mocked for her accent and her friendship with an unpopular girl, and she has made it through the year without crying.

    Nicholson Baker follows Nory as she interacts with her parents and peers, thinks about God and death-watch beetles, and dreams of cows with pointed teeth. In this precocious child he gives us a heroine as canny and as whimsical as Lewis Carroll's Alice and evokes childhood in all its luminous weirdness.

  • The Fermata (1994)
    Having turned phone sex into the subject of an astonishing national bestseller in Vox, Baker now outdoes himself with an outrageously arousing, acrobatically stylish "X-rated sci-fi fantasy that leaves Vox seeming more like mere fiber-optic foreplay" (Seattle Times).

  • Vox: A Novel (1992)
    In a novel rife with sex and eroticism, two lonely people separated by hundreds of miles meet on a 900-number party line and share their most intimate sexual fantasies, secrets, and perversities.

  • Room Temperature: A Novel (1990)
    In his second novel, Baker turns a young father's feeding-time reverie into a catalog of the minutiae of domestic love.

  • The Mezzanine (1988)
    Turns an ordinary ride up an office escalator into a meditation on our relations with familiar objects--shoelaces, straws, and more. Baker's debut novel, and a favorite amongst many of us here.

Non-fiction
  • Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization (2008)
    Bestselling author Nicholson Baker, recognized as one of the most dexterous and talented writers in America today, has created a compelling work of nonfiction bound to provoke discussion and controversy---a wide-ranging, astonishingly fresh perspective on the political and social landscape that gave rise to World War II.

  • The World on Sunday: Graphic Art in Joseph Pulitzer's Newspaper (1898–1911) (2005) with Margaret Brentano (Bake'rs wife)
    Joseph Pulitzer's New York World flourished at the turn of the twentieth century, and out of it grew what we think of as the modern daily paper. The World was famous for muckraking and sensationalism, but to a contemporary eye what is most striking about the paper (and in particular the Sunday edition) is that it was filled with colorful art--caricatures, full-page cartoons, disaster drawings, fiction illustrations, hand-lettered typography, weird science, halftone photographs, maps, and more.

    For The World on Sunday, Baker and coauthor Margaret Brentano have selected 85 of the finest examples of period reporting, bold and playful graphic design, long-lost comic strips, and society pieces from the heyday of the World for reproduction in this delightful oversized volume. Baker's introductory essay argues the significance and beauty of Pulitzer's paper, and Brentano's detailed captions and notes accompany the colorful reproductions throughout.

    The World on Sunday is a visual treasure trove that appeals to newspaper and history buffs as well as graphic designers, artists, and writers.

  • Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper (2001)
    The ostensible purpose of a library is to preserve the printed word. But for fifty years our country’s libraries–including the Library of Congress–have been doing just the opposite, destroying hundreds of thousands of historic newspapers and replacing them with microfilm copies that are difficult to read, lack all the color and quality of the original paper and illustrations, and deteriorate with age.

    With meticulous detective work and Baker’s well-known explanatory power, Double Fold reveals a secret history of microfilm lobbyists, former CIA agents, and warehouses where priceless archives are destroyed with a machine called a guillotine. Baker argues passionately for preservation, even cashing in his own retirement account to save one important archive–all twenty tons of it. Written the brilliant narrative style that Nicholson Baker fans have come to expect, Double Fold is a persuasive and often devastating book that may turn out to be The Jungle of the American library system.

  • The Size of Thoughts: Essays and Other Lumber (1996, 1997)
    The bestselling author of Vox and The Fermata devotes his hyperdriven curiosity and magnificently baroque prose to the fossils of punctuation and the lexicography of smut, delivering to readers a provocative and often hilarious celebration of the neglected aspects of our experience.

  • U and I: A True Story (1991, 1992,1995, 1998)
    Baker muses on the creative process via his obsession with John Updike.

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