Nicholson Baker

Professor of Poetry and Writing at The European Graduate School / EGS.

Nicholson Baker

Biography

Nicholson Baker (b. 1957) is a celebrated writer of fiction and non-fiction, and a professor of poetry and writing at The European Graduate School / EGS. Born in New York City, he lives in South Berwick, Maine, with his family. Baker studied at the renown The School Without Walls in Rochester, New York from 1970 to 1975. In 1975, he briefly studied at the Eastman School of Music before attending Haverford College in Pennsylvania, where he received a BA in Philosophy. As a novelist, Baker’s work focuses on the thoughts of characters during otherwise inconsequential moments. His novels generally de-emphasize narrative and rather evolve through careful description and characterization.

Perhaps inspired by his great-grandfather, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Ray Stannard Baker (1870-1946), Nicholson Baker is also an activist for the protection and archiving of newspapers. His campaign arose after he discovered that many major libraries destroy the paper originals once a microfilm copy has been made. Baker received the San Francisco–based James Madison Freedom of Information Award in recognition of these efforts in 1997. Two years later, he established a non-profit corporation, the American Newspaper Repository, to rescue old newspapers from destruction by libraries. These discoveries prompted Baker to write Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper, a book that received a great deal of media attention and for which he also received a National Book Critics Circle Award in 2001.

Nicholson Baker’s first work, Mezzanine (1988), takes place through the memories of an office worker as he ascends an escalator. It abounds in long footnotes and has created the genre for which Baker is best known. His next novel, Room Temperature, follows the same path, though this time it takes place during a few minutes at the narrator’s home while he is feeding his baby daughter. Through the thoughts of the narrator, Mike, Baker expresses an approach—perhaps his own—to writing: “…with a little concentration, one’s whole life could be reconstructed from any single twenty-minute period randomly or almost randomly selected.” The continuation of this novel can be read in A Box of Matches (2003) through a middle-aged narrator who has a family; in a similar way, the book mines the narrator’s “store-house” of reflections and memories.

His novel Vox (1992) revolves around a phone sex conversation through which Baker explores two, single young characters’ accumulated thoughts and memories in relation to sex on a pay-per-minute chat line. The novel was Nicholson Baker’s firstNew York Times bestseller, and, anecdotally, briefly became a media sensation when it was revealed that Monica Lewinsky had given a copy of the book to President Bill Clinton.

In one of his first non-fiction works, U and I: A True Story (1991), Nicholson Baker composes a study of how a reader engages with an author’s work, partly written as an appreciation of John Updike and partly as an act of self-exploration. In this non-traditional literary analysis, Baker has decided not to read, or re-read, anymore of John Updike, thus all of the “quotes” by Updike are written from Baker’s memory alone.

Nicholson Baker’s more recent works focus on particular political and historical issues. His novel Checkpoint (2004) is a dialogue between two old high school friends and their plans to assassinate former President George W. Bush. Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization (2008) offers a revised history of the beginnings of World War II. It questions the prevailing belief that the Allies wanted to avoid the war, but could not due to the provocation of Hitler’s actions. Baker uses original documents to suggest that the leaders of the USA and the UK had actually provoked Germany, and Japan, to enter into the war. In the epilogue to the book, he provocatively suggests that the pacifists (often vilified by WWII historians) might have failed, “but they were right.”

Nicholson Baker is the author of numerous novels, including: Traveling Sprinkler (Blue Rider Press, 2013), House of Holes: A Book of Raunch (Simon & Schuster, 2011), The Anthologist: A Novel (Simon & Schuster, 2009), Checkpoint (Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), Vintage Baker (Vintage Books, 2004), A Box of Matches (Random House, 2003), The Fermata (Random House, 1994), The Everlasting Story of Nory (Random House, 1998), Room Temperature (Grove Weidenfeld, 1990), The Mezzanine (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988), and Vox (Random House, 1992). As well, he has published numerous non-fiction works, including: The Way the World Works: Essays (Simon & Schuster, 2012), Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization (Simon & Schuster, 2008), The World on Sunday: Graphic Art in J. Pulitzer’s newspaper 1898-1911 (Bulfinch, 2006), Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper (Random House, 2001), U and I: A True Story (Random House, 1991) and The Size of Thoughts(Random House, 1996).

Works

Books

Traveling Sprinkler, Baker, Nicholson. Traveling Sprinkler. Blue Rider Press, 2013. ISBN: 0399160965

The Way the World Works: Essays, Baker, Nicholson. The Way the World Works: Essays. Simon & Schuster, 2012. ISBN: 1416572473

House of Holes: A Book of Raunch, Baker, Nicholson. House of Holes: A Book of Raunch. Simon & Schuster, 2011. ISBN: 143918951X

The Anthologist: A Novel, Baker, Nicholson. The Anthologist: A Novel. Simon & Schuster, 2009. ISBN: 1416572449

Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization, Baker, Nicholson. Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization. Simon & Schuster, 2008. ISBN: 1416567844

The World on Sunday: Graphic Art in J. Pulitzer’s newspaper, 1898-1911, Baker, Nicholson. The World on Sunday: Graphic Art in J. Pulitzer’s newspaper, 1898-1911. Bulfinch, 2006. ISBN: 0821261932

Checkpoint , Baker, Nicholson. Checkpoint. Alfred A. Knopf, 2004. ISBN: 1400044006

Vintage Baker, Baker, Nicholson. Vintage Baker. Vintage Books, 2004. ISBN: 1400078601

A Box of Matches, Baker, Nicholson. A Box of Matches. Random House, 2003. ISBN: 0375502874

The Fermata, Baker, Nicholson. The Fermata. Random House, 1994. ISBN: 0679415866

Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper, Baker, Nicholson. Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper. Random House, 2001. ISBN: 0375504443

A Book of Books, Baker, Nicholson. A Book of Books. Bulfinch Press, 2002. ISBN: 0821258141

The Everlasting Story of Nory, Baker, Nicholson. The Everlasting Story of Nory. Random House, 1998. ISBN: 0679439331

Room Temperature, Baker, Nicholson. Room Temperature. Grove Weidenfeld, 1990. ISBN: 0802112242

The Mezzanine, Baker, Nicholson. The Mezzanine. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988. ISBN: 1555842585

Vox, Baker, Nicholson. Vox. Random House, 1992. ISBN: 0394589955

U and I: A True Story, Baker, Nicholson. U and I: A True Story. Random House, 1991. ISBN: 0394589947

The Size of Thoughts, Baker, Nicholson. The Size of Thoughts. Random House, 1996. ISBN: 0679439323

Articles

A New Page

Baker, Nicholson. “A New Page.” The New Yorker, August 3, 2009.

Narrow Ruled

Baker, Nicholson. “Narrow Ruled.” The American Scholar Autumn (2000): 5-8.

Deadline: A desperate plea to stop the trashing of America’s historic newspapers

Baker, Nicholson. “Deadline: A desperate plea to stop the trashing of America’s historic newspapers.” The New Yorker, July 24, 2000.

Grab Me a Gondola

Baker, Nicholson. “Grab Me a Gondola.”The New Yorker, June 15, 1998.

China Pattern

Baker, Nicholson. “China Pattern,” The New Yorker, February 3, 1997.

The Author vs. the Library

Baker, Nicholson. “The Author vs. the Library,” The New Yorker, October 14, 1996.

Short Story Contest! And the Winner is…(The Remedy, begun by Nicholson Baker; finished by Robert Phillips.)

Baker, Nicholson. “Short Story Contest! And the Winner is…(The Remedy, begun by Nicholson Baker; finished by Robert Phillips.).” The New York Times, Aug 18, 1996.

My Life as Harold

Baker, Nicholson. “My Life as Harold.” The New Yorker, June 26/July 3, 1995.

Books as Furniture

Baker, Nicholson. “Books as Furniture.” The New Yorker, June 12, 1995.

From the index of first lines [poem]

Baker, Nicholson. “From the index of first lines [poem].” The New Yorker, December 26, 1994/January 2, 1995.

Clip Art

Baker, Nicholson. “Clip Art.” The New Yorker, November 7, 1994.

Subsoil

Baker, Nicholson. “Subsoil.” The New Yorker, June 27 / July 4, 1994.

Infohighwaymen

Baker, Nicholson. “Infohighwaymen.” The New York Times, Oct 18, 1994.

Leading With the Grumper

Baker, Nicholson. “Leading With the Grumper.” The New York Review of Books,August 11, 1994.

“Lost Youth

Baker, Nicholson. “Lost Youth.” London Review of Books, June 9, 1994.

Discards

Baker, Nicholson. “Discards.” The New Yorker, April 4, 1994.

The Projector

Baker, Nicholson. “The Projector.” The New Yorker, March 21, 1994.

Survival of the Fittest

Baker, Nicholson. “Survival of the Fittest.” New York Review of Books, November 4, 1993.

Reading Aloud

Baker, Nicholson. “Reading Aloud.” The New Yorker, March 1, 1993.

Exchange: Pennies for Thoughts

Baker, Nicholson. “Exchange: Pennies for Thoughts.” The Atlantic, April 1991.

War and Pieces

Baker, Nicholson. “War and Pieces.” Esquire, March 1990.

Room Temperature

Baker, Nicholson. “Room Temperature.” The New Yorker, January 8, 1990.

Men’s Room

Baker, Nicholson. “Men’s Room.” The New Yorker, August 15, 1988.

Shoelace

Baker, Nicholson. “Shoelace.” The New Yorker, March 21, 1988.

Pants on Fire

Baker, Nicholson. “Pants on Fire.” The New Yorker, June 2, 1986.

Rarity

Baker, Nicholson. “Rarity.” The Atlantic, October 1984.

Comma

Baker, Nicholson. “Comma.” The Atlantic, August 1984.

The Size of Thoughts

Baker, Nicholson. “The Size of Thoughts.” The Atlantic, March 1983.

Changes of Mind

Baker, Nicholson. “Changes of Mind.” The Atlantic, November 1982.

Playing Trombone

Baker, Nicholson. “Playing Trombone.” The Atlantic, March 1982.

Snorkeling

Baker, Nicholson. “Snorkeling.” The New Yorker, December 7, 1981.

The Harold Munger’s Story

Baker, Nicholson. “The Harold Munger’s Story.” StoryQuarterly 13 (1981).

Lectures

Nicholson Baker

Words as Cotton Candy (An autobiography)

28.01.2016
Nicholson Baker

Weightlessness in the mountains, living classrooms

07.12.2015
Nicholson Baker

A Reading of The Anthologist 10/10

28.10.2009
Nicholson Baker

A Reading of The Anthologist 9/10

28.10.2009
Nicholson Baker

A Reading of The Anthologist 8/10

28.10.2009
Nicholson Baker

A Reading of The Anthologist 7/10

28.10.2009
Nicholson Baker

A Reading of The Anthologist 6/10

28.10.2009
Nicholson Baker

A Reading of The Anthologist 5/10

28.10.2009
Nicholson Baker

A Reading of The Anthologist 4/10

28.10.2009
Nicholson Baker

A Reading of The Anthologist 3/10

28.10.2009
Nicholson Baker

A Reading of The Anthologist 2/10

28.10.2009
Nicholson Baker

A Reading of The Anthologist 1/10

28.10.2009