The Thumbnail Book Reviews

by John Q McDonald --- 17 February 1998

U and I

by Nicholson Baker

In this odd book, Baker describes the complex relationship between a young writer and the older one he idolizes. In this case, it is himself and John Updike. In his own complex and so truthful fashion, Baker describes his childlike worship of Updike and his work, while also admitting how little Updike he has ever actually read. Baker calls this a memory essay of sorts, basing his writing on what he can remember of Updike's work. His acute truthfulness results in incredibly insightful revelations on his feelings about Updike and about writing in general. The book is littered, though, with countless name-drops and New Yorker-ish references which occasionally border on the inside joke. (John Updike was a major contributor to the New Yorker and was occasionally guilty of the same chatty qualities.) Even so, it is an entertaining and revealing essay. Updike, himself, once said: "It's an act of homage, isn't it? And he's a good writer, and he brings to that book all of his curious precision, the strange Bakeresque precision." But goes on to say: "...the nerds of the world buy Baker". Harumph. Nerds buy Updike, too.

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Also by Nicholson Baker: [A Box of Matches] [Checkpoint]
[The Everlasting Story of Nory] [The Fermata] [Room Temperature]