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Tag Archives: Nicholson Baker

 

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  • This Week’s Reading

    What We’re Loving: Baseball, Giacometti, Literary Sprinting

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    Polanski-Macbeth-Paris-Review

    Missing baseball yet? I am: I miss the slow churn of the season, I miss sitting in the stands, shielding my eyes from an afternoon sun as a hit flies into the air—is it foul? is it fair?—only to be caught at the wall by an outfielder. I miss the rhythm of apparent inactivity mixed with maximum tension. (I don’t miss the Cubs never winning a World Series.) What is beautiful about Steven Millhauser’s single-sentence story “Home Run” in Electric Literature is that not only does it celebrate our national pastime, it celebrates this rhythm through language. As editor Halimah Marcus explains in her introduction, “With nary a punctuation mark other than a comma, Millhauser builds momentum like the titular home run—the linguistic equivalent of bated breath, of rally towels, of screaming from your seat, of going, going, gone.” —Justin Alvarez

    In celebration of Neil Gaiman’s recent appointment at Bard College (my alma mater), I’ve been spending my evenings with American Gods. Not generally a reader of fantasy, at first I found myself echoing a question asked early on by our protagonist, Shadow: “What should I believe?” When we received an answer—“Everything”—it came from a man with a buffalo head. The book is a compendium of mythological tales, mixed together with intelligent precision and strewn with horror and humor. Ancient deities war with the rising gods of a digital world; a junkie leprechaun roams the streets in search of a misplaced gold coin; morticians by the names of Ibis and Jacquel chew on small bits of organs as they reseal their cadavers. Oh, and Lucille Ball is a god of the new millennium. Yet at the core of these phantasmagorical episodes is a commentary on melting-pot America, where the titans of other worlds are forgotten and replaced by newer, trendier gods—“gods of credit card and freeway, of Internet and telephone, of radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and of beeper and of neon.” It’s no wonder that this novel has won both Hugo and Nebula awards or that the Internet has been in a frenzy over the rumored HBO adaptation. —Caitlin Youngquist Read More

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  • On the Shelf

    Fictional Food, and Other News

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  • Go Comics has put the complete Calvin and Hobbes archive online. Read on the site, or download the app.
  • The novels of Nicholson Baker. In nail art.
  • Can you guess which books inspired these fictitious food scenes? Or, the quiz some of us have been training for our entire lives.
  • “To call these books essential is not to say that I believe everyone must read them, but to convey that they broadened and informed my ideas of what it means to be female and how the stories of girls and women are told.” Anna Holmes on five essential “lady” books everyone should read.
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  • This Week’s Reading

    What We’re Loving: Quaker Meeting, Blue Trout, and the Call of the Wild

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    Quaker-Meeting-Paris-Review

    Quaker Meeting in London, c.1723.

    Why aren’t there more novels about Quaker worship? It’s inherently dramatic, people sitting in silence and waiting for God to speak through them. Dramatic—and really, really funny. For proof look no further than Nicholson Baker’s forthcoming novel, Traveling Sprinkler. The hero, Paul Chowder, spends a lot of time attending Quaker meetings (i.e., church). Most of the rest of the novel he spends trying to teach himself the guitar, write (incredibly dorky) songs, and win back the girlfriend who left him in Baker’s earlier novel The Anthologist. There are lots of reasons to love Traveling Sprinkler: Baker gets sweeter with each new book, and underneath the sweetness lie witty arguments about poetry and song and taste. Among other things, this is the best novel I’ve read about Spotify. It also vividly captures Quaker beliefs and practices at a moment when, as Paul Elie wrote last year in the New York Times, many novelists have trouble writing about religion. —Lorin Stein

    “Beautiful and brilliant, possessed of an eye protected against sentiment coupled with a steel-trap mind and a tongue feared by all who had been at the receiving end of its talented sarcasm, a sarcasm that for some would always be wickedly amusing, for others just wicked.” So says essayist (and issue 204 contributor) Vivian Gornick of critic and writer Mary McCarthy on The New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog. In a piece drawn from her introduction to a new edition of McCarthy’s 1949 novel, The Oasis, Gornick highlights the book’s biting satire but, more importantly, McCarthy’s fearlessness in barely disguising her characters from their real-life counterparts (mostly her Partisan Review colleagues). As McCarthy stated in her Art of Fiction interview, “What I really do is take real plums and put them in an imaginary cake.” —Justin Alvarez Read More

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  • On Language

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    The Paris Review’s interviews have long featured single manuscript pages from among the subjects’ writings. They are meant to show the author at work, his or her method of self-editing, of revision—an illustrative supplement to the process described at length in the conversations. To me, though, they always exist first as instances of visual artistry. The particularities of each writer’s markings are immediately perceptible: the way Margaret Atwood’s handwritten lines appear impatient and vital in contrast with the prim logos of the SAS Hotel stationery on which she penned a poem; the way Yves Bonnefoy’s long, spidery insertion lines give physicality to the pallid rows of words; the way David McCullough’s xed-out typewritten phrases become so many tiny, busy intersections. In the same way, I’ve always found the looping inscriptions of Cy Twombly’s “blackboard” paintings, in particular Cold Stream, to be a kind of magic—the secret scribblings, writ large, of a mind at work. (It’s no coincidence that Twombly worked as a cryptographer in the army.)

    I’m struck by the frequency, in Paris Review interviews, with which authors describe writing as being a visual activity. John Edgar Wideman imagines his drafts as “palimpsests.” Don DeLillo finds that “the words typed on the white page have a sculptural quality … They match up not just through meaning but through sound and look.” Read More

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