Which brings us to the book of the month: The Size of Thoughts: Essays and Other Lumber by Nicholson Baker. With all this travel and displacement, I didn't read that much in the past month except for a few scant pages of this or that book, or leafing though New York Girls, or the Doris Kloster book, or flipping through pages of The Complete Reprint of John Willie's Bizarre. Baker's book was sort of a meditative book after enjoying the "over the top" quality of a Kern or a Kloster. Baker is a very intelligent man as an essayist and this sober and funny book reminds me of the thoughtfulness of his previous novels, The Mezzanine or The Fermata.
In fact, Nicholson Baker has been assaulted once or twice in the past by a reviewer or two for being a minor pornographer on the last two novelistic outings, and I guess that he is now asking for our forgiveness. He portrays himself here as a regular guy, with a great interest in the most minute particles. The careful essays are about simple things: changing your mind as opposed to making decisions, the size and shape of thoughts, and rarity in life and experience. Baker is also a physical guy and likes his hands on the machinery, so he devotes a word or two about typewriters, model airplanes, clipping your nails, and the movie projectionist.
He is a severe literary critic (refer to U and I), and Baker here elaborates his views on the literary profession which include the art of reading aloud, the history of punctuation, thoughts about Alan Hollinghurst and J. E. Lighter's The Historical Dictionary of American Slang. Things read at weddings, typos, a recipe, dewey decimal system, and books as furniture are thrown in the shuffle; glue keeps it all together. And finally a long essay about the history of lumber, where he comes out in favor of lumber, is his most strongly political. I say that I love lumber! Ever since I was hit on the head by a two by four as a child.