I can’t stop reading Nicholson Baker’s novels, though I hesitate to call them novels. They read like mini-essays that include quiet observations that you might find in a poem. Precise and vivid and peaceful. You feel like you’re sitting on a couch next to the author listening to him spin little yarns of wisdom. In this last one I read, A Box of Matches, the entries are made up entirely of his thoughts each morning as he rises early and approaches the fireplace. No plot. No forward thrust. But always engaging. If you’ve been meaning to read more poetry but can’t force yourself to slow down to do so (because reading poetry is more demanding?), try reading Baker.
Speaking of poetry, here’s another novel full of some of the richest sentences you’ll read anywhere: Alice McDermott’s newest book, Someone. There’s plenty of plot here, but McDermott offers it up in flashbacks and flash-forwards, all handled masterfully. The plot centers around a woman and her family, but the satisfaction in reading this book comes not from finding out what happens next but in sharing this character’s intimate glimpses into what it’s like to live a life. Some of the scenes are joyous and sweet, others are torturous in their specificity, especially one birthing scene that you won’t soon forget. This is easily one of the best books I’ve read in a while.
My reflections on writing, reading, and random thoughts.