Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Son of an advertising executive, Nicholson Baker initially chose music as a profession, starting in the fourth grade rather improbably with the bassoon. He became so proficient on that notoriously unwieldy instrument that he enrolled in 1974 in the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, and performed as a substitute bassoonist with the Rochester Philharmonic. Subsequently he dropped his plans for a musical profession and majored in English at Haverford College, from which he graduated in 1980.
Perhaps it was the gadgety aspect of the instrument that appealed to the future anatomist of nail clippers, light switches, the “knuckly orthopedic quality” observable in the operation of the tumblers of a faceted glass doorknob manifesting a “rare combination of solidity and laxness,” model airplanes, the platter system of commercial film projectors, the miracle of perforation, and the all-consuming question of why inked designs printed on flannel pajamas do not make the nap less fluffy.
This list may give a small indication of the quality of this writer’s eye and mind, his lovingly detailed and precisely recorded observation of a world few notice and even fewer find important. He puts one in mind of an observation attributed to the famous Irish writer James Joyce: “How a man ties his shoelaces or eats his egg in the morning gives a better clue to his differentation than how he goes to war.”
In his fascination with how...
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