January 7, 2010
NICHOLSON BAKER (born 1957) was not the first novelist to create an entire narrative out of the smallest of events, but his 1988 debut, The Mezzanine, still strikes a melodic chord in readers because of the sheer joy with which the author brings to life one man’s ruminations on shoelaces, the hum-drone of workaday office life, and the very essence of manhood — all in the time it takes to travel up an escalator. Although each of Baker’s subsequent fictions and nonfictions has circled around an obsession, whether it’s John Updike (U and I), sex (Vox and The Fermata), fatherhood (Room Temperature), or print newspaper archives (Double Fold), they share a common theme: finding the music (literally, in his new novel, The Anthologist, with its poetry excerpts set to melody) in the mundane. Some authors express themselves by building fictional worlds; Baker expresses new truths about the world in which we live but too often taken for granted.
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