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The Way the World Works: Essays Paperback – Aug 20 2013
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“Baker is one of the most beautiful, original and ingenious prose stylists to have come along in decades . . . and takes a kind of mad scientist's delight in the way things work and how the world is put together.” (Charles McGrath The New York Times Magazine)
“[A] winning new book. . . . This singular writer . . . can mount an argument skillfully and deliver an efficient conclusive kick.” (The San Francisco Chronicle)
“Nicholson Baker is such a swell, smart writer that he rarely - maybe never - tips his hand.... In Baker's view the mundane, closely enough observed, may be the skate key to the sublime.” (Carolyn See The Washington Post)
“A fundamentally radical author . . . you can never be sure quite where Baker is going to take you. . . . [He] is an essayist in the tradition of GK Chesterton and Max Beerbohm, writing winning fantasies upon whatever chance thoughts may come into his head.” (Financial Times (London))
“What these works share is a sense that how we think, our idiosyncratic dance with both experience and memory, defines who we are.” (The Los Angeles Times)
“His prose is so luminescent and so precise it manually recalibrates our brains.” (Lev Grossman Time)
“Baker looks at the world around us in a way that is not only artful and entertaining but instructive.” (Charleston Post & Courier)
“Mr. Baker is a wise and amiable cultural commentator worth listening to. . . . [his] prose is polished, witty . . . his essays are always provocative and entertaining.” (Cynthis Crossen The Wall Street Journal)
“Baker's new essay collection, The Way the World Works, is always absorbing, merging his interest in solid, tangible objects with his devotion to the life of the mind. . . . simply dazzling.” (Seattle Times)
“Exhilarating . . . Eye-opening . . . Baker continues his project of bringing new dimensions and idiosyncrasies to the personal essay, which he is devoted to reviving and reinventing.” (The Boston Globe)
About the Author
Nicholson Baker is the author of nine novels and four works of nonfiction, including Double Fold, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award, and House of Holes, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, and The New York Review of Books. He lives in Maine with his family.See all Product description
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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.