Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Nicholson Baker

So my friend Jarrett -- you know Jarrett, the man who writes both Creature of the Shade and Human Transit, the one who can make Australian foliage fascinating and can take your breath away with principles of laying out bus routes? Yes, that Jarrett. So Jarrett wrote me an email, I think he's worried about me, and he said he was reading a novel by one Nicholson Baker, The Anthologist, and that it reminded him sharply of me.

Well, if you really want someone to read a book, that's how to get them to read it. “Man,” you say, “ this book is just you,” and since we're all desperate to get a handle on who we might be, we read it. And usually we get a ways in and we think, “I don't know who this is, but it's not me. Why does Lucy think it is? What can she have been thinking of? Is it that the protagonist is bald?” and it just goes downhill from there.

But in this case, it so happens, that this book is me, for better and worse: the narrator is hapless and sweet and and can't keep his attention on things and is intermittently wise, and it puts me in mind of Dave Bonta, who once said that I was the wisest person he knew, except when I wasn't, and I felt that about covered it.

And all I really have to say so far, and I'm only on page 28, is that if I'd known people were writing novels like this I wouldn't have stopped reading novels.

Just for instance. The narrator picks ups up a New Yorker magazine:

Let's have a look at this poem. Here it is, going down. You can tell it's a poem because it's swimming in a little gel pack of white space. That shows it's a poem. All the typography on all sides has drawn back. The words are making room, they're saying, Rumble, rumble, stand back now, this is going to be good.

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