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Encyclopedia > Nicholson Baker
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Nicholson Baker (born January 7, 1957) is a contemporary American novelist. January 7 is the seventh day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... Jump to: navigation, search 1957 was a common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar. ...

Contents


Work

Baker's highly unconventional novels de-emphasize traditional elements (particularly plot), focusing instead on close introspection and the sifting of thoughts and memories by the narrator.


Web postings and other data suggest that readers divide sharply in their evaluation of Baker's work. Many feel that his writing wastes time on trivia (Stephen King has notoriously compared Baker's work with fingernail clippings). Baker's enthusiasts, however, find his ability to minutely inspect and appreciate the contents of a human mind fascinating and unique. They often uncover echoes of their own thoughts, only better expressed, in Baker's books, and they find that Baker can also be extremely funny. Stephen Edwin King (born September 21, 1947) is an American author best known for horror novels. ...


Plot ingredients of several of Baker's books (in particular, voyeurism and planned assassination) have been seen as extremely offensive by some. Other readers admire Baker's courage in taking on such topics with directness and honesty.


Life

Nicholson Baker was born in 1957 in Rochester, New York. He studied briefly at the Eastman School of Music and received his B.A. from Haverford College. He lives today with his wife and two children in South Berwick, Maine. He received a National Book Critics Circle Award in 2001. A portion of Rochesters skyline, looking north along the Genesee River from the Ford Street Bridge City nickname: The Flour City, The Flower City Location Location of Rochester in New York State Government Mayor Physical characteristics Area      Land      Water 96. ... The Eastman School of Music is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Rochester. ... Haverford College is a coeducational, undergraduate liberal arts college in Haverford, Pennsylvania. ... South Berwick is a town located in York County, Maine. ... The National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) is an American association of approximately seven hundred book reviewers. ... Jump to: navigation, search 2001: A Space Odyssey. ...


Apart from writing novels, Baker has been a fervent critic of librarians destroying paper-based media. He wrote several vehement articles in The New Yorker critical of the San Francisco Public Library sending thousands of books to a landfill, the elimination of card catalogs, and the destruction of old books and newspapers in favor of microfilm. In 1997 Baker received the San Francisco-based James Madison Freedom of Information Award in recognition of his efforts. A librarian is a person who looks after the storage and retrieval of information. ... The New Yorkers first cover, which is reprinted most years on the magazines anniversary. ... The main San Francisco Public Library The San Francisco Public Library is a public library system serving the city of San Francisco. ... Landfill is a waste disposal site for the deposit of the waste onto or into land (i. ... There are various forms of catalog or catalogue, each organized registers of some set of objects. ... Microfilm is an analog storage medium for books, periodicals, legal documents and engineering drawings. ... 1997 is a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... The James Madison Freedom of Information Award is a San Francisco Bay Area honor given to individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions to the advancement of freedom of expression. ...


In 1999, he established a non-profit corporation, the American Newspaper Repository to rescue old newspapers from destruction by librarians. He published a book in 2001 based on his researches in this area, Double Fold, in which he accuses certain librarians of lying about the decay of materials and having an obsession for technological fads, at the expense of both the public and historical preservation. 1999 is a common year starting on Friday Anno Domini (or the Current Era), and was designated the International Year of Older Persons by the United Nations. ... Jump to: navigation, search 2001: A Space Odyssey. ...


Nicholson Baker's books (partial)

  • The Mezzanine: A Novel (1988) is Baker's first book. It presents the thoughts and memories of a young male office worker as he ascends an escalator up to the mezzanine of the office building where he works. The novel created the genre for which Baker is best known and is perhaps its boldest representative. It abounds in long footnotes, including a vivid paean to long footnotes.
  • Room Temperature: A Novel (1990) continues in the same spirit as The Mezzanine, though this time the action spans a few minutes at home (in Quincy, Massachusetts). Mike is feeding his baby daughter, "the Bug", as her head rests in the crook of his arm. He blows in the direction of a mobile; twenty seconds and two dozen pages later he is surprised to see the mobile move. Mike's thoughts wander as he contemplates, for example, the possibility of admitting to one's wife that one has been picking one's nose (body functions are discussed extensively, perhaps prompted by the baby's presence) or the juxtaposition of Debussy and Skippy peanut butter jars in a symphonic poem. The novel was reviewed warmly but with no great enthusiasm, as an enjoyable but slightly demure domestic follow-up to The Mezzanine.
  • U and I: A True Story (1991) is a non-fiction study of how a reader engages with the work of an author: partly an appreciation of John Updike, and partly a kind of self-exploration. Rather than a traditional literary analysis, Baker begins the book by stating that he will read no more Updike than he already has up to that point. All of the Updike quotes used are presented as coming from memory alone.
  • Vox: A Novel (1992) covers an episode of phone sex between two young single people. The book created a mild sensation when it was reported that Monica Lewinsky gave a copy to Bill Clinton. The sex scenes in the novel, though quite vivid, nevertheless share the basic approach that Baker has taken since The Mezzanine: in this case, he explores his two characters' accumulated thoughts and memories as they relate to sex. For some readers, Baker's obsession with detail detracted from a hoped-for pornographic effect. Others, in reading the imaginative sex stories that the two protagonists make up for one another, have perceived a budding romantic affection: the last act they perform before hanging up is to exchange phone numbers.
  • The Fermata (1994) is perhaps the most controversial of Baker's novels. To quote the dust jacket of one edition: "Arno Strine likes to stop time and take women's clothes off. He is hard at work on his autobiography, The Fermata. It proves in the telling to be a very provocative, funny, and altogether morally confused piece of work."
  • A Book of Matches: A Novel (2003) is in many ways a continuation of Room Temperature, similarly mining the narrator's store of reflections and memories, many of them domestic. The narrator is now middle-aged and has a family. He rises each morning at about 5:30, lights a fire in the fireplace, and ponders. The work is admired, though some have found it rather less exuberant than its predecessor.
  • Checkpoint (2004) is composed of dialogue between two old high school friends, Jay and Ben, who discuss Jay's plans to assassinate President George W. Bush. Jay is an unbalanced day laborer who, in the depths of anger and desperation at Bush's actions and his inability to do anything to stop them, has traveled to Washington, D.C. to kill the president. He considers many far-fetched means of killing, such as by using depleted uranium boulders, flying radio-controlled CD saws, homing bullets marinated with the President's picture, and hypnotized Manchurian scorpions. Ben has met Jay in a Washington, D.C. hotel room, unaware that his friend is planning to commit "a major, major, major crime." Over the course of the novella Ben discusses what drove Jay to plot an assassination. Baker explores a sense of desperation felt widely at present, as well as the extremes of frustration that a person can be driven to. Reviewers have pointed out that the book is mild and the planned violence so cartoonish that it is not threatening.

See also: 1987 in literature, other events of 1988, 1989 in literature, list of years in literature. ... A mezzanine is an intermediate floor between main floors of a building; it is often low-ceilinged, and often projects in the form of a balcony. ... A footnote is a note placed at the bottom of a page of a book or document that comments on, and may cite a reference for, a part of the main text and is normally flagged by a superscript number within the main text thus: 1 for the first footnote... Jump to: navigation, search Nicholson Bakers second book is one giant ramble. ... See also: 1989 in literature, other events of 1990, 1991 in literature, list of years in literature. ... Quincy is a city located in Norfolk County, Massachusetts and bears the nickname The City of Presidents. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 88,025. ... A simple modern mobile in the style of Alexander Calder A mobile is a type of kinetic sculpture constructed to take advantage of the principle of equilibrium. ... Nose picking in progress Nose-picking is the act of extracting mucus or foreign bodies from the nose with a finger. ... This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ... Skippy peanut butter is a commercial brand of peanut butter made in the United States. ... A symphonic poem or tone poem is a piece of orchestral music in one or many movements in which some extra-musical programme provides a narrative or illustrative element. ... See also: 1990 in literature, other events of 1991, 1992 in literature, list of years in literature. ... John Updike John Updike (born March 18, 1932) is an American novelist and short story writer born in Reading, Pennsylvania. ... Jump to: navigation, search In Vox, Baker stripped away all the pretenses of plot and narration and replaced them with the most basic form of communication: talking (a feat later revisited in Checkpoint). ... See also: 1991 in literature, other events of 1992, 1993 in literature, list of years in literature. ... Phone sex refers to sexually explicit conversation between two or more persons via telephone, especially when at least one of the participants masturbates or engages in sexual fantasy. ... Monica Lewinsky, in the government ID photo by which she was first identified in the press Monica Lewinsky receives a hug from U.S. President Bill Clinton during a fundraising event in Washington, DC, October, 1996 Monica Samille Lewinsky (born July 23, 1973) is an American woman who was thrust... Jump to: navigation, search William Jefferson Clinton (born William Jefferson Blythe, III on August 19, 1946) was the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. ... Pornography (from Greek πορνογραφία pornographia — literally writing about or drawings of harlots) (also informally referred to as porn or porno) is the representation of the human body or human sexual behaviour with the goal of sexual arousal, similar to, but (according to some) distinct from, erotica. ... Jump to: navigation, search This article is being considered for deletion in accordance with Wikipedias deletion policy. ... See also: 1993 in literature, other events of 1994, 1995 in literature, list of years in literature. ... Jump to: navigation, search Each morning Emmett wakes up to ponder life in front of his fire. ... See also: 2002 in literature, other events of 2003, 2004 in literature, list of years in literature. ... Jump to: navigation, search This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ... See also: 2003 in literature, other events of 2004, 2005 in literature, list of years in literature. ... Jump to: navigation, search George Walker Bush (born July 6, 1946) is the 43rd and current President of the United States and a former Governor of the State of Texas. ... Washington, D.C. is the capital city of the United States of America. ...

Publication data

Novels

  • The Mezzanine: A Novel (1988, Weidenfeld & Nicolson; ISBN 1-55584-258-5 / 1990, Vintage; ISBN 0679725768)
  • Room Temperature: A Novel (1990, Grove Weidenfeld; ISBN 0-8021-1224-2 / 1990, Vintage; ISBN 0679734406 / 1990, Granta; ISBN 0-14-014212-6 / 1991, Granta; ISBN 0-14-014021-2)
  • Vox: A Novel (1992, Random House; ISBN 0-394-58995-5 / 1992, Vintage; ISBN 0679742115 / 1992, Granta; ISBN 0-14-014057-3)
  • The Fermata (1994, Vintage; ISBN 0679759336)
  • The Everlasting Story of Nory: A Novel (1998, Random House; ISBN 0-679-43933-1 / 1998, Vintage; ISBN 0679734406)
  • A Box of Matches: A Novel (2003, Random House; ISBN 0375502874 / 2003, Chatto & Windus; ISBN 0-701-17402-1)
  • Checkpoint (2004, Random House; ISBN 1-4000-4400-6)

Jump to: navigation, search Nicholson Bakers second book is one giant ramble. ... Jump to: navigation, search In Vox, Baker stripped away all the pretenses of plot and narration and replaced them with the most basic form of communication: talking (a feat later revisited in Checkpoint). ... Jump to: navigation, search This article is being considered for deletion in accordance with Wikipedias deletion policy. ... Jump to: navigation, search Each morning Emmett wakes up to ponder life in front of his fire. ... Jump to: navigation, search This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ...

Non-fiction

  • U and I: A True Story (1991, Random House; ISBN 0-394-58994-7 / 1991 Penguin/Granta; ISBN 0-14-014226-6 (hard) / 1992, Penguin/Granta; ISBN 0-14-014040-9 (paper) /1995, Vintage; ISBN 0679735755 / 1998, Granta; ISBN 1862070970)
  • The Size of Thoughts: Essays and Other Lumber (1996, Random House, ISBN 0-679-43932-3 / 1996, Vintage; ISBN 0679776249 (paper) / 1996, Chatto & Windus; ISBN 0-7011-6301-1 (hard) / 1997, Vintage; ISBN 0099579715 (paper)
  • Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper (2001, Random House; ISBN 0-375-50444-3 / 2001, Vintage; ISBN 0375726217 / 2002, Vintage; ISBN 0099429039)

Secondary literature

  • Saltzman, Arthur M. Understanding Nicholson Baker. University of South Carolina Press, 1999. ISBN 157003303X
  • Star, Alexander. "The Paper Pusher." The New Republic. May 28, 2001. 38-41.
  • Cox, Richard J. Vandals in the Stacks? A Response to Nicholas Baker's Assault on Libraries. Greenwood Press, 2002. ISBN 0313323445

External links

  • Random House, author page
  • Nicholson Baker fan page
  • Nicholson Baker Quote Page

  Results from FactBites:
 
Voice Literary Supplement: The Paper Chase (1041 words)
Indeed, the best of Baker's fiction is nothing but: U and I's autobiographical protagonist spends the book brooding on his entirely imaginary relationship with John Updike; The Fermata's likeably creepy Arno Strine uses his magical time-stopping powers for little else but stealing glimpses of women with their clothes off.
Baker's trademark minutiae here just pile up like so much ballast for his rhetorical dreadnought; his trademark wit stiffens into sarcastic potshots at the book's designated villains, a motley crew of 20th-century library-policy gurus whom Baker almost succeeds in bringing to life on the page but can't quite bring himself to humanize.
Baker at one point hits the nail on the head: "The truth is that all books are physical artifacts, without exception, just as all books are bowls of ideas," he writes, explaining his conviction that libraries should aspire to be museums as much as databases.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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