Baker's essays range in length from a page ("How I met my wife") to 27 pages explaining his stand on pacifism. His subject matter varies just as widely. He writes about the difference in the reading experience between a book and text on a Kindle. He decries the destruction (or "weeding") of books from the San Francisco library system as it converts to digital content. Baker lovingly describes Venetian gondolas, New York Times content in 1951, the works of Daniel Defoe and John Updike, Flash Papers from 1841 and Sundays spent at the dump.
As always, Baker turns his eye to things that most of us either do not see or do not know we are seeing. He is intrigued by the writing on the wings of airplanes that can be viewed from his seat ("Press here on latch to ensure locking.") He has noticed that quote marks are no longer used to delineate a characters thoughts in works of fiction and wonders if this is a bad thing. He can talk at length about earplugs or telephones or string.
In a collection of summer memories, Baker juxtaposes the important with the seemingly forgettable. In this essay, he challenges the reader to consider why some events, smells, persons, etc become stuck in memory while others fall out as lost pieces of the past. What is the mechanism that catches shards of time while letting other moments, perhaps with more resonance, drift away forever?
In the end, the most important feature of Baker's essays is not the content but the style of his writing. Lev Grossman of Time summarizes perfectly: "his prose is so luminescent and precise, it manually recalibrates our brains." Because of this, these entries should be selected in a leisurely manner and read slowly. They allow entry into a literate and fascinating mind, much as the reading experience is described by Baker in the essay "Inky Burden." Once the reader has done this, he may not necessarily see the world more fully but he should at least be increasingly aware that there is more to see within the limits of perception and that there is much that is being missed.
- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (Aug. 20 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1416572481
- ISBN-13: 978-1416572480
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.3 x 21.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 322 g
- Customer Reviews: 9 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,895,557 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)